DOI: 10.1111/glob.12458 ISSN:

Cosmopolitan pathways from the Global South: How non‐middle‐class students become desirable Fulbright applicants

Shunan You
  • General Social Sciences


International student mobility (ISM) is largely interpreted as a global middle‐class capital accumulation strategy. Cosmopolitanism, which is the named outcome and effect of these mobile forms of social and cultural capital, is therefore disproportionately available to already privileged students. This study moves beyond this prevailing interpretation by examining how students from working‐ or lower‐middle‐class families with limited resources in Global South countries combine bottom‐up cosmopolitanism with educational mobility to get selected into highly competitive spaces, such as the Fulbright Foreign Student Program, the most prestigious educational and cultural program in the United States. Based on 20 in‐depth interviews with successful Fulbright applicants and participant observation, my findings suggest that working‐ and lower‐middle‐class applicants are largely successful because of their cosmopolitan dispositions which they cultivate in creative and agentive ways. This article adds texture and complexity to existing discussions on middle‐class hegemony in ISM and cosmopolitan subject‐making.

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