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Centre of Governance & Human Rights (CGHR)


2nd November 2011

State of Citizenship: Contexts and Cultures of Public Engagement and Citizen Action

Prof. Andrea Cornwall (Institute of Development Studies, Sussex University)

This paper argued that efforts to enhance citizen engagement need to be contextualised in respect of the states of citizenship in the contexts in which they are applied, and called for more attention to be focused on understanding trajectories of citizenship experience and practice in particular kinds of states. It suggested that those working in international development should pay more attention to the implications of the dissonance between the normative dimensions of global narratives of participation and accountability and the lived experience of civic engagement and the empirical realities of 'civil society' in particular states. By exploring instantiations of citizen engagement in different settings, the paper reflected on what citizenship comes to imply in these contexts. In doing so, it drawed attention to the diverse ways in which particular subject-positions and forms of identification are articulated in the pursuit of concrete social and political projects.