CCISC Seminar – Problematising Citizenship: Protest and the Contested Civic Sphere

29th June, 13.00-17.00

In the wake of a series of major terrorist attacks and the post-2008 crisis of late capitalism, western liberal democratic states have increasingly sought to redefine the nature and conditions of inclusion and participation in the civic sphere. This seminar discusses how social movement campaigns have sought to challenge and re-articulate this reduction of democratic space, and problematizes the development of discourses of citizenship, and the meanings, ideas and boundary-marking practices that underpin them.

In the first session, we discuss the articulation of citizenship within the ‘movements of the squares’ in southern Europe. The political economy of fiscal austerity has not only radically reduced the public sphere through the ‘structural reform’ of public services and welfare regimes, but further entrenched the ‘post-democratic’ dynamic of European representative democracies which privileges corporate power over collective public participation in decision-making. In this context, we discuss how the notion of the ‘citizen’ has developed as a central figure in indignados movements, and what it means for the potential of a new democratic settlement.

In the second session, we examine spaces, modes and practices of contestation over the boundaries of civic membership. Recent studies have problematized the binary definition of citizenship and noncitizenship, suggesting that such a definition between citizenship (as inclusion) and noncitizenship (as simply the negation of citizenship) fails to capture the complex contours of inclusion and exclusion which shape contemporary societies. This session draws on this work to raise critical questions for how we understand the practice of political participation in relation to those excluded or marginalised by regimes of citizenship.

Drawing on interdisciplinary perspectives from migration studies, social movement studies, critical policy studies and political theory, the seminar aims to explore how categories of citizenship are constructed and operationalised, and how dynamics of inclusion and exclusion, citizenship and noncitizenship, create spaces and silences of political participation.

CCISC Poster 2***
13.00 – 13.30

Refreshments available
Session 1: 13.30 – 14.45

Citizenship, and the movements for ‘real democracy’ in southern Europe

Chair: Graeme Hayes (Aston)
Paulo Gerbaudo (Kings)

The Indignant Citizen: From the Politics of Autonomy to the Politics of Radical Citizenship
One of the most significant features of Southern European anti-austerity movements of the Indignados in Spain and the Aganaktismenoi in Greece is what has sometimes been described as ‘citizenism’, the radical recuperation of the idea of citizenship as a central feature of movement discourse and claim-making. This trend has been seen in repeated references to the citizens and the citizenry as the subject mobilised in the protest, as well as in demands for a restoration and expansion of citizenship rights put forward by popular assemblies and in the manifestos of key protest organisations. On the one hand, citizenship discourse has acted as a source of collective identity, unifying a variety of economic grievances produced by the financial crisis (indebtedness, unemployment, labour precariety) around the inclusive subject position of the citizen, or better of the ‘aggrieved citizen’, that is, a citizen who feels deprived of citizenship rights. On the other hand, citizenship has provides a unifying framework of claim-making, focusing on the project of ‘opening up’ the State through new forms of direct democracy. Anti-austerity movements have thus departed from both autonomous movements, who wanted to position themselves completely ‘outside and against the state’, and the social democratic tradition that aimed to ‘conquer the state’. Protesters have put forward an anti-oligarchic view of citizenship that aims at re-asserting the power of the dispersed citizens against the concentrated force of economic and political elites, and overcoming the limits of representative democracy through an extension of popular participation in decision-making.
Cristina Flesher Fominaya (Aberdeen)

We are the 99%? Problematizing the construction of ‘citizen’ as political collective identity
The wave of anti-austerity and pro-democracy movements that swept the globe since 2011 have shared a number of key features, among them the tactic of occupation as protest and the framing of the political subject as ‘ordinary citizen’. The frame of ‘ordinary citizen’ (the 99%, the ‘people’ or the ‘pueblo’) as collective political actor has been very effective in calling political and economic elites to account for their policies on behalf of the 1% (or the ‘caste’ in the case of Spain). This frame has been crucial in resignifying the public squares as political agoras and heterotopic spaces that represent a participatory alternative to representative democracy. In this talk I will explore the effectiveness of this framing but also problematize it, drawing on examples from Spain’s 15-M movement.
Session 15.00 – 16.15

Chair: Katie Tonkiss (Aston)
Heather Johnson (Queens, Belfast)

These Fine Lines: Locating Noncitizenship in Political Protest in Europe
Since 2012, refugee protest camps and occupations have been established throughout Europe that contest the exclusion of refugees and asylum seekers, but that also make concrete demands for better living conditions and basic rights. It is a movement that is led by migrants as noncitizens, and so reveals new ways of thinking of the political agency and status of noncitizenship not as simply reactive to an absence of citizenship, but as a powerful and transgressive subjectivity in its own right. This paper argues that we should resist collapsing analysis back into the frameworks of citizenship, and instead be attentive to the politics of presence and solidarity manifest in these protest camps as a way of understanding, and engaging, noncitizen activism.

Amanda Beattie (Aston)

Mobility Trauma and the 2012 Family Immigration Rules: Attending to the Need for Unorthodox Agency
There is, I believe, a trauma that emerges from within the lived experience of mobility politics. The denial of mobility rights, as enshrined in Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and Protocol No. 4 of the European Convention on Human Rights, leading to the separation of families, friends and communities in the most basic iteration of mobility trauma. How might scholars of politics and international relations attend to this experience helping those who experience mobility trauma, especially when it is a traumatic experience prompted by the state and its institutions? This article suggests, and defends the assertion, that in order to attend, and negotiate, this trauma, traditional discourses of moral agency will fail. Cosmopolitan and communitarian iterations of agency, I contend, reinforce situations of partial or full exile instead of helping the disposed and disenfranchised to regain a sense of power and autonomy in the world. I turn to a narrative framing of the political, and mobility politics therein, in order to interrogate this experience. I propose to the reader that within the discourse of psychotherapy, and narrative therapy in particular, there is an alternative mode of being political that can attend to mobility trauma.

Round Table 16.15-17.00

‘Citizenship’: An Outdated or Vital Paradigm?
Amanda Beattie, Pablo Calderon-Martinez, Cristina Flesher Fominaya, Paulo Gerbaudo, Graeme Hayes, Heather Johnson, Jelena Obradovic-Wochnik, and Katie Tonkiss
This closing roundtable offers a critical engagement with the concept of citizenship. It debates key questions in the study of spaces and modes of political participation from a range of interdisciplinary perspectives, with the aim of problematizing the extent to which the citizenship paradigm captures the lived realities of inclusion and exclusion in contemporary societies.