Democracy and Citizenship

Citizenship as an aspect of daily life is something many people take for granted.  As an English tutor at Head Start, I have become very familiar with the challenges associated with the status as an immigrant in the United States.  Furthermore, my boyfriend, who is a Chinese citizen, wishes to pursue a life in the United States after graduation.  This situation has made me even more aware of the daily differences between the life of a citizen and the life of a non-citizen.  Jesus’ story, which was exemplified in Staeheli’s article, helps to the further the understanding of what it means to be a citizen, but more importantly, what it means to not be a citizen.  Citizenship was described in the article as being “ordinary” and “extraordinary.”  Ordinary is an appropriate adjective to use because the laws and norms that are directly associated with citizenship are often so obvious that they go unnoticed in daily life.  Whereas, the adjective extraordinary is suitable because citizenship exists in many different dimensions, either material, symbols, and/or institutional.  This article also described citizenship as something that people enact in daily life and something that is maintained by a higher system.  However, citizenship differs from person to person based on status and positioning in society.  In a legal sense, citizenship defines who is a member and also decides how members are to be treated.  This idea of citizen-subjects reminded me of our previous discussion of place.  While discussing place, we discussed how the term place can be used to entail what should be in place or what is out of place. Citizenship in law also deems who is, who should be, who can be, and how to a citizen.  It also deems who is not, should not and cannot be a citizen.

In Chapter 4, Painter begins by emphasizing the concepts of individualism and liberalism.  Individualism is important because it supports the notion of individual liberty, and liberalism was influenced by individualism and liberalism gave rise to modernity.  However, a need for more government representation was desired, which lead to the birth of liberal-democracy.  To speak of democracy in a spatial sense, Painter stated that democratic rights are diffuse throughout territiory in an unequal fashion, rather than being continuous throughout a state.  This is important to note because citizenship is also spread unequally throughout a state, and as a result, there are two types of citizenship: informal and formal, or de facto citizenship (citizenship in practice) and de jure citizenship (citizenship in law).  Many helpful examples of these different types of citizenships were provided in the chapter.  The presence of de jure, and the absence of de facto citizenship was exemplified by female and deaf citizens.  The absence of de jure, and the presence of de facto citizenship is exemplified by illegal immigrants who contribute to the community and to the economy without the legal status and liberties of a citizen.  One of the most interesting concepts in this article was the idea of political institutions transcending the boundaries of a state.  Migrant workers with ties to their home country influence the occurrence of this phenomena.  Also, pressing political issues, such as global warming, transcend the state as well.  This introduced the term, “democratic deficit,” which is the state failing to allow its’ citizens to participate in international politics.  I was intrigued by the ideas of a global civil society and of cosmopolitan democracy.  These ideas seem far-fetched for a country such as the United States presently because this form of government would exist above the state and the current existing state would have to approve of this initially.  The United States is unlikely to approve of these forms of government any time soon, but the future is always uncertain, and a change of this magnitude may be necessary in the future.

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