Imagining and Practising Citizenship in Austere Times

John Clarke


A central issue in the reform of welfare systems concerns the citizenship relationship. Citizenship is critical in three ways:

  1. It has been the focus of political struggles to redraw the boundaries of citizenship: who counts as a citizen?
  2. It has been the focus of reforms seeking to redraw the balance of ‘rights and responsibilities’ between the state and the citizen, making citizenship more conditional; and
  3. It remains the focus of desires and demands for support and solidarity.

Drawing on recent collaborative research with advice agencies (Citizens Advice in the UK), I explore how citizenship is imagined and practiced in different settings – from the policing of nationality to state welfare – contrasting the growing conditionality and exclusiveness of state-centric definitions with alternative imaginaries that celebrate expansive and horizontal forms of identification.

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