The intensification of global mobility has introduced international migration to rural areas and small towns with little or no significant recent history of immigration. Drawing on an emergent literature in rural studies, this paper seeks to consolidate the concept of ‘rural cosmopolitanism’ both as a political or ethical project, and in relation to the ‘actual-existing cosmopolitanism’ of inter-cultural mobility, conviviality and openness to difference in rural communities. The framework is then tested through case studies of two rural small towns in Ireland – Gort, which was home to over 1000 Brazilian migrants in a population of less than 3000 in the late 2000s; and Ballyhaunis, Ireland's most diverse town with 42 different nationalities in a population of around 2300 – to examine the dynamics and relationships that have brought migrants to these towns and shaped their engagement with long-term residents. The paper contends that the emergent cosmopolitanism in the towns is defined by precarity, experienced at different scales from the individual to the community, and informed by broader economic and political trends. The paper argues that the rural context of the towns can serve both to facilitate cosmopolitan relations and to extenuate the precarity of this emerging cosmopolitanism.
Published: June 2018