Citizenship without community - podcasts

Citizenship - its legal, political, cultural and social status - has been the subject of much reconsideration in the past decade, driven by the collision of multiculturalism, security and migration in what for many have been turbulent times. We have not always seen the provision of rights by states or the fulfilment of duties by citizens, leading to a search for radical alternatives among some. But it seems contrarian to consider the possibility of a citizenship independent of any political community - a citizenship of humanity, for instance - since rights and duties must be enacted through some institutional structure, and such structures tend to map onto political collectives like cities, regions or nations. And underlying these debates, a crisis of representation has been mooted: voters don't trust representatives enough to authorise them to make decisions "in my name", media don't allow for the representation of complex problems like climate change or economic crises, and the concept of representation itself has been abandoned by philosophers and, indeed, media theorists like Richard Grusin. What it means to be a citizen, in a connected, efficacious relationship to politics and public problems, is, today, a fundamental problem.

So thanks to Angharad Closs Stephens and Vicki Squire for organising the Citizenship Without Community conference last week at the British Library. Podcasts of the talks are available here, including for me the most provocative by Prof. Étienne Balibar. Unfortunately, it was only in the Q&A that he addressed the crisis of representation for democracy and communication (for him, it is more of a phenomenological problem than a simple matter of institutions and practices), but his talk on the "impossibility" of a community of citizens, minus that Q&A, is here.