Citizenship and Place: Case Studies on the Borders of Citizenship

Citizenship and Place: Case Studies on the Borders of Citizenship


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This book explores the ways in which individuals and groups negotiate the meaning and rights associated with their citizenship or lack thereof within the context of diverse interpretations of "place." Place might be a specific location as in the place where a person is able to work, or live, or it may be more metaphorical, as in the spaces created to organize protest online. Place may even be defined by its absence or distance, as is the case with refugees and stateless individuals.

Chapters in the first half of the book examine citizenship and place within the city. The second half examines citizenship and place beyond the city, beyond the nation, and in the case of statelessness, even beyond citizenship. The volume ends with a chapter that asserts that all citizenship is local. Citizenship, when examined from the ground up within the context of place, can capture conflicts and negotiations around belonging and rights that include those who are refugees, those who are stateless, and those whose very presence and demand for rights defy normative or state-driven definitions of who has the right to claim rights based on citizenship. This book seeks to help the reader push traditional boundaries and critically examine notions of citizenship in these spaces.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781786605849
Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
Publication date: 08/03/2018
Series: Frontiers of the Political: Doing International Politics Series
Pages: 318
Product dimensions: 5.98(w) x 8.67(h) x 0.96(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Cherstin M. Lyon is an associate professor of history and coordinator of a graduate program in social science and globalization at Califronia State University.

Allison F. Goebel is a professor in the school of environmental studies with cross appointments in gender studies, global development studies and sociology, Queen's University, Canada.

Read an Excerpt


Insurgent Cities and Urban Citizenship in the Twenty-First Century

James Holston

Insurrection inaugurated the twenty-first century with a series of metropolitan rebellions. Piqueteros obstructed traffic in Buenos Aires at the end of the 1990s and early 2000s, demonstrating new forms of social and political organization in the face of overwhelming economic exclusion. Mutinous Bolivians in El Alto blocked municipal highways in their struggles over water and gas in 2003. Youth rose up in the Paris banlieues in 2005, burning cars and defying police. Protestors against the dispossessions of capitalism occupied the arteries and lungs of cities everywhere, beginning in 2009 in Athens and Reykjavik, spreading to Tunis, Cairo, New York, and Madrid in 2010 and 2011, erupting in Santiago and Phnom Penh by 2012, circulating through Istanbul and São Paulo in 2013, Caracas in 2014, and countless other cities around the world.

These insurrections marked the first two decades of the century with distinctive forms of protest that had many features in common. They struck at the city itself, not the factory or government building as in previous centuries, but at the spaces of urban circulation and assembly, occupying and clogging them with new forms of convocation. Protestors did not ask the state to change its behavior through representative democracy. Instead, rejecting delegative politics, they stormed the state with alternative sources and conceptions of rights that arose out of their production of city life and that were prefigured in their own processes of assembly and deliberation. Thus, their demands were not, in most cases, for states to extend already existing rights. They were rather for states to recognize the legitimacy and inevitability of rights that had emerged from their own life struggles in making the city — in producing it through the lives and labors of residents — and that they had fashioned on the anvil of alternative forms of political assembly. This intersection of city making, city occupying, and rights claiming generated movements for what I call in this chapter a new kind of insurgent citizenship, one that ubiquitously both enacts and asserts new forms of direct democracy.


All of these urban uprisings used, moreover, digital media as a core component of their mobilizations. Many observers claim that the sociality of digitally inspired peer-to-peer urbanism creates a new and invigorated citizenship, or at least creates conditions that favor the development of a new digital civic engagement. Emblematic of such claims is Shirky (2008) who argues that internet connectivity makes it easy to create online networks of "like-minded friends" and thereby to mobilize them quickly into groups with the capacity to take political action. Zuckerman (2014, 159 and 164) suggests that the use of digital media is producing new forms of civic engagement by creating an "overabundance" of spaces for "public deliberation" — digital engagements that vary considerably because they may be "thick" or "thin" in commitment, "instrumental" in objective, or expressive in giving "voice" to dissatisfaction. Castells (2012, 9–10) asserts a stronger claim:

By engaging in the production of mass media messages, and by developing autonomous networks of horizontal communication, citizens of the Information Age become able to invent new programs for their lives with the materials of their suffering, fears, dreams, and hopes. ... Digital social networks offer the possibility for largely unfettered deliberation and coordination of action.

Certainly, these observers analyze limitations, temper their enthusiasm with discussion of salient problems, and insist on the importance of connecting digital and face-to-face urban spaces. But they clearly promote examples of the counterpowers of the internet to transform democracy: from the role of Twitter and Facebook in overthrowing repressive regimes in the Arab Spring, to the capacity of FixMyStreet to engage residents in the everyday curation of collective infrastructure, to the "We are the 99%" Tumblr page that energized Occupy Wall Street, to the flash protests of #YoSoy132 that became a mutinous movement in the last Mexican presidential elections.

Other observers are far from convinced. Gladwell (2010) ridicules "Facebook activism" in his widely circulated New Yorker assessment of the role of social media in the Arab Spring: "Facebook activism succeeds not by motivating people to make a real sacrifice but by motivating them to do the things that people do when they are not motivated enough to make a real sacrifice." Contrasting the "weak-tie" activism of decentralized social media networks with "real activism," he argues that the latter requires the trust that is developed in face-to-face interactions and the discipline that matures through the organization of centralized leadership and hierarchical lines of authority. Morozov (2011, 190) reassigns the term "slacktivism" to those "deluded" by the "civic promiscuity" of the internet when he argues that online activism detracts from real offline activism by persuading people that they are having a political impact when in fact they are not. Tufekci (2014, 4) seems more balanced when she writes, "[D]igital tools ... [may make] it easy to mobilize for a protest without building the infrastructure that allows for successfully negotiating what comes after the street mobilization wanes."

How do we assess such arguments about the generation or not of new digital (and often specifically urban) citizenships, in particular about the use of digital social media as both an end and a means to design a new future of citizenship? This question must be a core element of any evaluation of the capacities of the recent metropolitan rebellions to generate new forms of democratic citizenship. To advance these considerations, we urgently need to find a critical language of investigation and analysis. One problem I frequently find is that these claims of new digitally inspired citizenship announce that something new replaces, or at least contends with, existing national citizenship without defining or problematizing the antecedent condition in ways that would permit comparative assessment. This slippage nurtures the assumption of what one wishes to prove. To say that the new rejects existing representative democracy is no doubt accurate but does little to advance the concept work necessary to evaluate and design an alternative. In a stimulating and ethnographically grounded article about Occupy Slovenia, for example, Raza and Kurnik (2012, 240, 250) credit the movement with developing a "democracy of direct action" as an "alternative" both to the "consensus-based model" of Occupy Wall Street and, more fundamentally, to "classic liberal theory." But without establishing their understanding of that theory, it is difficult for readers to evaluate the contributions of Occupy Slovenia to "radicalize democracy ... [through] experimental new ways of enacting democracy and reimaging the political." I am not asking for a treatise on liberalism and democracy. But a minimal set of consistently argued and historically grounded points would be helpful.

Moreover, what is meant by "citizenship" in national and/or digital terms is very broadly taken for granted without analyzing it as a particular form of association with a specific historical genealogy in relation to processes of political formation, as a definition of both inclusion and exclusion based on a birthright of either place or ancestry, as a combination of formal requisites that create the boundaries of social groups by defining the criteria of membership and of a substantive distribution of rights and practices to those deemed members, as an ethics of belonging that is often militarized and racialized, and so forth.

Given this lack of problematization, it is important to establish as the baseline of study not only the historical context in which this new citizenship of metropolitan insurgence may be seen to emerge but also the historical text that it aims to reformulate. Therefore, I begin with an analysis of these conditions of stage and script, by which I refer to global urbanization and the emergence of right-to-the city movements and urban citizenship that it produced. I then discuss two examples of recent urban insurgence with the aim of suggesting problems and criteria with which to evaluate the capacity of digital peer-to-peer urbanism and its media to generate new forms and substances of citizenship. Fundamentally, these criteria refer to the capacity to generate associational forms that support a substantive urban citizenship.


The global urbanization of the last seventy years, particularly 1950–2000, resulted not in the reduction of the significance of place in the articulation of citizenship but in its re-emplacement from the imagined community of the nation-state to the much more tangible place of the city. Global urbanization has made the city the most salient site for the emergence of new forms and substances of citizenship.

The growth of cities and the invention of democracy also coincided with the institutionalization of neoliberalism as an organization of state and a rationality of privatization, decentralization, and dispossession. Although these combinations of urbanization, democratization, and neoliberalization are intensely local in combustion, they produce a remarkably similar condition worldwide: enormous numbers — soon approaching a majority — of the world's population now live in impoverished urban peripheries in conditions of illegal and irregular residence around urban centers that benefit from their services and their poverty. Yet these conditions also generate a characteristic response: precisely in the urban peripheries, residents come to understand their basic needs in terms of their inhabiting the city — suffering it; building their daily lives in it; making its landscape, history, and politics a place for themselves. The many meanings of this making often coalesce into a sense that they have a right to the city.

This transformation of need into right has made cities a strategic arena for the development of new and insurgent citizenships. In other words, in these cities, national citizenships are being reconfigured by conflicts over the terms and aspirations of contemporary urban life. I want to emphasize, therefore, that although brutal political economies of labor, land, and law segregate the urban poor into peripheries and reduce them to a "bare life" of servility and violence, the very same structures of inequality incite these hinterland residents to demand a life worthy of citizens, articulated as a right to the city they are making. During the last half century, these right-to-the city movements have been overwhelmingly focused on problems of urban poverty and led by the subaltern classes of the city and, particularly in recent decades, by more middle-class allies in universities, NGOs, and occasional political parties. Thus, the working-class experiences of the city became, in significant measure, new and unprecedented sources for the transformations of urban planning (policies, instruments, norms) and of citizenship (expectations, practices, rights, laws, charters) that resulted. These processes of city making and citizen making were coincident in time and space, and they were profoundly unsettling of the existing conditions both of urban life and of the norms of national citizenship. An important question to ask is whether the urban uprisings since 2000 have continued to be framed by the working-class production of the city and its citizenship or have shifted to other agendas.


I also want to emphasize that this insurgent right to the city confronts the entrenched with alternative formulations of citizenship and not merely idiosyncratic or instrumental protest and violence. This formulation constitutes a new conceptual frame for right to the city developed primarily in cities of the Global South. In other words, the agents of this alternative to national belonging have framed it not in terms of revolution, divine intervention, or even human needs. They conceive it less than ever in terms of clientalism. Rather, for many of the urban poor, right to the city became a specific kind of demand of a different sort: a claim of citizens; a citizen right; a right articulated within the framework of citizenship and its legal, ethical, and performative registers. This is, perhaps, surprising.

Certainly, Lefebvre (1996) imagined the right to the city as emerging from struggles inherent in the daily lives of urban working-class residents. He understood it as their claim to a presence in the city that legitimated their appropriation of, participation in, and refusal to be excluded from urban spaces. He grounded it in the principle that the social needs of humanity trump the market needs of capital. This trump constitutes the production of the city for him as an "oeuvre" and establishes the predominance of its use value over any market exchange values the city generates.

However, the conflicts that consolidated this urban revolution as a question of rights to the city occurred not primarily in Paris but in cities of the metropolitan South, like Porto Alegre, Caracas, and Johannesburg. In going south, so to speak, the foundations of this right developed in ways that Lefebvre did not suppose. It is important to grasp this difference so that we can effectively appropriate right to the city in our own times, for ourselves. Although Lefebvre calls it a "right," his right to the city remains unmoored to any framework or formulation that would articulate it as such, that is, as a right. If a right is a kind of social relation that distributes powers and liabilities between people, then in Lefebvre's conceptualization it seems free floating and devoid of such relationality. Without doubt, it arises, as he supposed, in the conflicts of flesh-and-blood agents. However, reproducing the Left's traditional distrust of rights and citizenship (of "the egoistic rights of Man" as Marx put it), Lefebvre does not theorize his right to the city in terms of any articulation of social relatedness other than class conflict itself and the production of the city as oeuvre. So why call it "right" if it does not refer to a rule or a frame that generates subjective and objective power or does not articulate needs in terms of a specific set of claims, powers, and obligations sanctioned in law?

David Harvey (2008, 23) would clearly like to frame this right in the paradigm of human rights when he describes it as "one of the most precious yet most neglected of our human rights." He does not, however, develop this argument. Indeed, its very lack of formulation is symptomatic of a noticeable trend in which many people — including NGO activists — call right to the city a human right and take it for granted that the frame of human rights is an effective ground for it, either theoretically or empirically. Is it? The right to shelter and by extension housing may be a human right. I can accept that it is, though I am not sure it is the best ground for housing either. But does the same logic apply to the city? Do we have a corresponding "human right to the suburb," for example, that would help make sense of a "human right to the city"? In other words, who is the subject of the right to the city?


Excerpted from "Citizenship and Place"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Cherstin M. Lyon and Allison F. Goebel.
Excerpted by permission of Rowman & Littlefield International, Ltd..
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Table of Contents

Introduction, Cherstin M. Lyon / Part One: Citizenship and Place in the City / 1. Insurgent Cities and Urban Citizenship in the 21st Century, James Holston / 2. Gender, Place and Citizenship in Urban South Africa Post-1994, Allison Goebel / 3. Graduated Sovereignty and the Fragmented City: Mapping the Political Geography of Citizenship in Detroit, L. Owen Kirkpatrick / 4. Jus-Situ? Surprising Proposals for Place-Based Citizenship by Jewish and Arab-Palestinian Israelis, 2011 Mass Housing Protests and Beyond, Yael Allweil / Part Two: Beyond the City, Beyond the Nation, Beyond Citizenship / 5. Separate, Excluded, Unequal: Struggle and Resistance for Palestinian Permanent Residents in East Jerusalem, Oren Kroll-Zeldin / 6. Categorization and Differential Citizenship within Neoliberal Context: A Case Study of the Chenchu, Meenakshi Narayan and Sarveswar Sipoy / 7. Statelessness as a Form of Citizenship among Tibetan Exiles, Namgyal Choedup / 8. The Hmong of Zomia: Cultural Citizenship, Stateless, and Belonging, Faith G. Nibbs / Conclusion, Sophia Woodman

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