Jo Shaw, University of Edinburgh
"Citizenship as a Space of Law"
21 November 2012 at 17.00, Villa La Fonte, Conference Room
Citizenship’ has been claimed by many disciplines. It can be seen, from a legal perspective, as the formal bond between an individual and a state or indeed a non-state entity such as a supranational association of states or a subnational entity within a state.
From a political theory perspective, citizenship is paradigmatically about the claims of individuals and groups to political membership of a given polity. In Arendtian terms, it is about the right to have rights and to be part of the constituent power, although liberals, communitarians and critical theorists might disagree about how broadly this power should be defined and what specific rights should attach to being part of it.
Sociologically speaking, citizenship is a membership space within a given society or community, filled out and given content through the interplay of multiple social and economic relations, especially those involving social and economic power. Yet despite the extent and variety of the attention given to it, or perhaps because of this, citizenship still remains in large measure a black box. Frequently invoked, but less frequently unpacked.
In this lecture, I will develop an approach to understand citizenship as a relational construct, within the framework of a paradigm of relations of law, by looking at the tensions which construct it as a space of law. Citizenship is a space within which status, rights and identity issued are contested, constructed and sometimes traded.
I therefore argue that a useful way of unpacking the black box of citizenship as regards the role of law in relation to citizenship is to think about citizenship as a ‘space of law’, across which various tensions are in play.
The main purpose of this paper is to map out this space, elaborating on six key tensions which shed more light upon the character of law as a system of norms and regulations, both restrictions and protections, that creates and defines that space and its limits (Section 3). In fact, the argument runs that these tensions in practice constitute the notion of citizenship as a ‘space of law’. This is not an approach which purports somehow finally to resolve the many contestations which mark any and all debates about the notion of citizenship, but it does provide a richer articulation of the mutable relationship between citizenship and law, as well as setting it in its specific historical, geographical and political context.