As a result of globalization, migration, war, and political instability, many people live in places where they do not have full access to the benefits of citizenship. At the same time, events such as the tumultuous elections in the United States suggest that civility and the spirit of social cooperation, once regarded as cornerstones of citizenship in democratic systems, are on the decline. While all this serves to destabilize certainties and expectations that may have existed around this concept, citizenship is one of the central problems that contemporary societies face.
Following Aihwa Ong's seminal contribution, social anthropologists have looked upon citizenship both as membership in political communities and as the product of processes of subjectivation. With regard to the former, anthropologists have drawn attention to the cultural resources that migrants and ethnic minorities mobilize to attain social and political recognition. With regard to the latter, a rich corpus of ethnographic work describes schools, hospitals, bureaucracies, churches and other sites as instrumental in the creation of citizens in the moral, cultural, political, economic, and biopolitical dimensions.
This course focuses on citizenship as a legal category that is policed by states and filled with a practical meaning through people's engagement with governments and bureaucracies. We will read relevant theoretical contributions and ethnographic literature from around the world to find out what social anthropology has to contribute to our understanding of this pivotal concept of modern statehood.