Citizenship Unhinged: Exploring the Potential of Agonistic Citizenship

Date of Completion

January 2011


Political Science, General




Citizenship Unhinged explores citizenship and the politics of migration through the lens of agonistic pluralism. Notions of commonality packed within citizenship risk papering over the always fragmentary, imperfect, and re-arrangeable status of membership and identity in larger collectivities. Democratic notions of popular sovereignty and inclusive pluralism call upon us to continually examine these boundaries and potential rigidities in order to ensure a vibrant and dynamic political space which promotes meaningful contestation. The central research question addressed in this study is how we can move toward a model of democratic citizenship which recognizes exclusion yet allows space for “outsiders”, such as migrants and refugees, to challenge the naturalization and permanence of their exclusion. I rely upon insights from agonistic pluralism to conceptualize such a political space as well as to draw out the ways in which this model would differ from prevailing conceptions of democratic citizenship. However, this study moves beyond a theoretical account through extensive field interviews conducted with immigration advocates and activists in the US, which allows me to examine the feasibility of fostering such spaces out of our current political realities. ^