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Social Text 19.4 (2001) 1-5

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Introducing . . . Cultural Citizenship

Toby Miller

In most discussions of globalization, the four-pronged structure of social scientific knowledge (economy, polity, culture, and interiority) remains undisturbed. That structure is supposed to provide an analysis that allows for unevenness and discontinuity in social life. Instead, it frequently homogenizes processes, such as the effects of globalization--the "g word"--through a supposedly neat, interlocking set of tendencies: universal penetration of everyday life by the market, erosion of the nation-state, diffusion of Yanqui culture/le défi américain, and psychological/legal universalisms. This homogenization often fails to address dominant, residual, and emergent global trends, and messy intersections between these categories of thought. A more critical interrogation of globalization signals the inadequacy of this worldview and calls for the interpenetration of all four ways of knowing.

This special issue addresses themes that crisscross the globe and the disciplines. The problems described demand postdisciplinarity. Something more, however, holds the following, seemingly disparate, topics together: corporate-sponsored races for "the cure" (Samantha King); the Afro-Brazilian music third sector (George Yúdice); Pakistani women's street theater (Fawzia Afzal-Khan); diasporic Chinese in Panama City (Lok Siu); gender in India's nation-building narrative (Usha Zacharias); and the utopian projections that flow from Mexican maquiladoras (Melissa W. Wright). They all activate what is coming to be known as "cultural citizenship," a textual, political, and activist category that flows, I believe, from transformations taking place as part of the g word. So where did culture meet citizenship? I suggest that three overlapping concepts have characterized the discourse of citizenship: the political, the economic, and the cultural, with migration the governing term today.

Political citizenship permits voting and appeals to representative government and guarantees physical security in return for ceding the right to violence to the state. Its founding assumption is that personal freedom is both the wellspring of good government and the authority of that government over individuals. In Jean-Jacques Rousseau's paradox, this involves "making men free by making them subject" (Rousseau 1975, 123). As developed through capitalism, slavery, colonialism, and liberalism, political citizenship has expanded its reach and definition exponentially since [End Page 1] the eighteenth century, though it remains unevenly spread across the globe.

Economic citizenship covers employment, health, and retirement security through the redistribution of capitalist gains and the use of the state as an agent of investment. In the words of Australia's prime minister during World War II, John Curtin, "government should be the agency whereby the masses should be lifted up" (quoted in Van Creveld 1999, 355). Economic citizenship emerged from the Depression and decolonization as a promise of full employment in the First World and economic development in the Third. Today, it is in decline, displaced by the historic policy renegotiations of the 1970s conducted by capital, the state, and their intellectual servants in economics that redistributed income back to bourgeoisies. Or put another way, economic citizenship is available only to corporations, via tax breaks and other welfare subsidies.

Cultural citizenship concerns the maintenance and development of cultural lineage through education, custom, language, and religion and the positive acknowledgment of difference in and by the mainstream. This discourse developed in response to the great waves of cross-class migration of the past fifty years and an increasingly mobile middle-class culture-industry workforce that has been generated by a new international division of cultural labor (NICL). The NICL favors North over South and capital over labor, as film and television production, computing, and sport go global in search of locations, skills, and docile labor. Within the NICL, certain cosmopolitans embark on what Aihwa Ong (1999, 112-13) calls "flexible citizenship," a strategic making-do that seeks access to as many rights as possible while falling prey to as few responsibilities as possible. This conduct matches corporate trends of globalization. It alienates those who wish that others had an affective, allegedly nonsectarian relationship with the state as well as an instrumental one (though the latter might be regarded by institutionalist political science as an exemplary instance of interest...


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Archived 2005
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