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Engaging Authority: Citizenship and Political Community

August 30, 2021 @ 3:15 pm 5:00 pm

Citizenship is often glossed as membership of political community, yet there is surprisingly little discussion of what is meant by political community and what membership in it entails. Scholars have often treated citizenship in liberal terms as an expansive set of rights, which citizens as nationals claim from states. Yet citizenship and the political community it entails need not be centred on liberal rights, nor nation, nor democracy.
The panel’s starting point is that to describe oneself or to be described as a citizen entails a particular relationship to authority. Citizens are understood to be members of a community that we consider “political” in that its members are engaged in the exercise of authority over them. Being engaged may entail being invoked and/or being involved in the governing, and there are myriad varieties of each. The panel will explore how the governed are invoked and involved in the exercise of authority over them, which is how we understand citizenship and political community. It brings to bear insights from a range of disciplines, reaching across scholarly debates that are seldom brought into contact. Some papers are theoretical while others are empirical, taking in citizenship and political community in India, Scotland, Turkey, Mexico and the United States. The papers consider citizens’ engaging of authority in contexts from political constitutions and national movements to local schools and small-town politics. Across all these theoretical and empirical concerns, presenters respond to a common set of four questions: who or what exercises political authority; what scope of authority and over whom; what relations exist between those subject to authority; and what ideals of citizenship and political community are and can be held. The panel is timely after a year of tortuous processes in which citizens engaged and been engaged by authority like seldom before. Governments have designed policies to target particular groups for protection, and to call on and reward others for service, while calls have been made to hold government to account, or to privilege some citizens over others. Citizens’ engagement with governments, and with each other and with non-citizens, has evolved dramatically over the year, and in ways that varied globally, including across the several contexts considered in the panel.
Title Details
Political Community in a Plural Society: Reflections from India View Paper Details
Sovereignty, Autonomy and Citizenship in the Kurdish Model of Political Community View Paper Details
Overcoming the Myth of the Sovereign, Self-Governing People View Paper Details
Studying Political Community from the Citizen Up View Paper Details


August 30, 2021
3:15 pm – 5:00 pm
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