Civics Citizenship

Being political: genealogies of citizenship by Engin F. Isin

By Engin F. Isin

Being Political offers a robust critique of universalistic and orientalist interpretations of the origins of citizenship and a persuasive substitute background of the current struggles over citizenship.

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Extra info for Being political: genealogies of citizenship

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The confraternity was above all a unification of all local landowners. It was formalized for the purposes of defense, settling disputes, and administration of justice. Other purposes included the regulation of trade and commerce. Only the members of the corporation could engage in trade and commerce in the city. The city association also determined the obligation owed to the lord and the martial organization. Masses of citizens were forced to join the sworn confraternization. “The noble and patrician families, which had founded the association would administer an oath to all inhabitants qualified by land-ownership; those who did not agree to take it were forced into exile” (1253).

To put it differently, rather than taking the narratives provided by citizens as given and rather than comparing citizens with barbarians and aliens, Being Political investigates the immanent strangers and outsiders of the city. What follows is a brief outline of its underlying interpretive analytics and the sources it draws from. Ways of Being Political: Solidaristic, Agonistic, Alienating That human beings struggle for recognition and that in doing so form associations with other human beings, and that by virtue of this sociation they group themselves and others need not be a universal or transcendental conception.

By contrast, slaves in the polis, vagabonds in the eutopolis, or refugees in the cosmopolis were constituted as outsiders, neither belonging to the group nor interacting with it, but belonging to and necessary for the city in which citizens and strangers associated. They were typically, though not always, constituted via agonistic and alienating strategies and technologies. By contrast, aliens constitute a category that is entirely outside the realm of sociation and association, whether solidaristic, agonistic, or alienating.

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