Questioning traditional citizenship: memory, identity and collective action in Chile

Sociology of citizenshipBy Simón Escoffier

In this post I contest traditional liberal conceptions of citizenship rooted in the nation-state and consider the role played by memory in the ways in which Santiago de Chile’s disenfranchised produce contentious politics.

I suggest that, by referring to the past in their meetings and conversations, local neighbourhood organisations in Santiago de Chile’s poor settlements (poblaciones) assert a particular, anti-hegemonic interpretation of history. Through stories, historical anecdotes, and different types of memorials, poor residents produce a neighbourhood identity, giving rise to innovative forms of community membership. Continue reading

The Future is Not What It Used to Be

­JF---FutureThe Future is Not What It Used to Be: Climate Change and Energy Scarcity, by ODID Associate Professor Joerg Friedrichs, was published by MIT Press in 2013 and received an honourable mention in the Society of Environmental Journalists’ ( 2014 Rachel Carson Environment Book Award category. SEJ is the world’s largest group of environmental writers and academic researchers who specialise in environmental communications.

Joerg spoke to Tom Henry, who edits the book section of SEJournal, SEJ’s quarterly magazine:

How did you identify the theme of the book and what motivated you to write it?

With all the knowledge around, and with all the arguments made back and forth in the climate controversy, I felt that there was a lack of serious thinking about what it all means for our way of life. True, there are apocalyptic scenarios about environmental mayhem, and others have taken a historical approach before me. But much of that literature is either purely academic or plainly alarmist, and I wanted to provide a sober evaluation of what we can say about future climate transformations based on analytical thinking and historical evidence. Continue reading

Book Review: ‘Patronage as Politics in South Asia’ by Anastasia Piliavsky (ed)

Sociology of citizenshipBy Uday Chandra

Patronage, which may be defined as a hierarchical relationship based on mutual obligations, is often regarded today as an unwelcome anachronism. Although this volume resists any single definition, the word ‘patronage’ reminds us of feudal and slave-owning societies of the past, where a few enjoyed the rights of citizenship at the expense of the many. Liberal democracies in our world have no place for patrons or clients, we believe, because universal adult franchise makes everyone legally equal and sovereignty rests with the demos.

Yet modern democratic societies face a peculiar paradox: they must elect representatives who enact laws and make policies even as they maintain the fiction that they are just like us. The paradox of modern democracy has little to do with the level of inequality in society. Neither is it specific to cultural contexts in which democracy appears to be compromised, even distorted, by patron-client relations. Patronage is everywhere, as this refreshing new volume argues, and its workings in India, the world’s most populous democracy, push us to think of citizenship as vertically differentiated or hierarchical. Continue reading

A tale of twos: Two months, two new policies, two parts of the world

By John Hammock, Co-Founder and Director of Outreach, Oxford Poverty and Human Development InitiativeJohnHammock-for-web

What do Ho Chi Minh City and the country of Chile have in common? HCM is a city of 7.84 million people, a bustling metropolis, the economic nerve centre of Vietnam. Chile is a small, middle income country of 18 million on the other side of the globe. Worlds apart in culture, language, political systems, economics—they now share a common approach to dealing with persistent poverty. Both have adopted a new way to measure poverty—giving them the information to transform the way they focus resources to combat the problem.

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‘We are Sierra Leoneans, not Slaves’: Contesting Citizenship in Freetown

Sociology of citizenshipBy Luisa Enria

In the summer of 2013, Freetown’s King Jimmy Bridge collapsed. This was around a decade after the end of Sierra Leone’s civil war, and a year before the outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus; needless to say, the resulting deaths seemed barely newsworthy.

But King Jimmy Bridge, and the tunnels that it took down with it, had particular significance to the many young people who make a precarious living in the neighbouring streets’ vibrant informal economy. The tunnels bore the marks of the chains used to imprison the victims of the Atlantic slave trade, as passages to the Ocean they were about to cross. Before King Jimmy Bridge collapsed, the tunnels served as congregation spots for young people, where discussions ensued about their current predicaments and about the plight of the youthman in a country where high rates of youth unemployment have forced a generation into marginal and irregular income-generating activities. Continue reading

Plurinational citizenship in the making

Sociology of citizenshipBy Lorenza B. Fontana

In 2009, after a long and contentious process of national dialogue that led to the approval of a new Constitution, the Republic of Bolivia officially changed its name to Plurinational State of Bolivia.

Over the last decade, the idea of plurinationalism has influenced public debates across the Andean region. In 2008, the Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa defined plurinationalism as the coexistence of several different nationalities within a larger state where different peoples, cultures and worldviews exist and are recognized. Yet, Bolivia was the first country to go all the way, not only including this idea in the Constitution (as Ecuador did) but actually changing its official name. This is not just a formality. The new Bolivia is engaging in a process of in-depth institutional reforms, challenging mainstream narratives and political structures and reinventing a model of the state and creating notions of citizenship better suited to highly diverse ethnic and cultural landscapes. Continue reading

Calling for a Multidimensional Poverty Index in the Sustainable Development Goals

By John Hammock, Co-Founder and Director of Outreach, Oxford Poverty and Human Development InitiativeJohnHammock-for-web

Last year the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI), a research centre at ODID, won the Economic and Social Research Council’s Outstanding International Impact award for the development of a methodology for measuring multidimensional poverty, known as the Alkire Foster (AF) method. By early 2015, the governments of Mexico, Colombia, Bhutan, the Philippines and Chile had adopted such multidimensional poverty measures, enabling them to design more effective poverty-reduction programmes.  Now uptake at the country level is expanding, with other countries lining up to fight national poverty with this new way of looking at, measuring and targeting the problem.

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Preventing child mortality and addressing the ‘lottery of birth’

The_Lottery_of_Birth_coverBy Paul Dornan, Senior Policy Officer, Young Lives

Last year marked the 25th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The status report on the Convention published by the UN in September noted an incredibly important fact –that under-5 mortality has nearly halved, from 90 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 48 per 1,000 in 2012. That is 17,000 fewer children dying every day. The pace in reducing early child deaths has quickened – from a 1.2% per annum in 1990–95 to 3.9% in 2005–12.  Of course this is a tremendous success story, but to put it into perspective, the global average of 48 per 1000 compares to 5 per 1000 in the UK and 3 in Sweden, and the MDG goal of a two-thirds reduction will not be met by the 2015 target year.

Last week Save the Children issued a report, The Lottery of Birth, which shines a spotlight on a key part of this story which is that even within national averages, the progress has not been equitable – mortality rates are typically falling least among the poorest and most marginalised children and mortality inequalities within countries are growing. The implication of this is that to make further reductions requires policies to reach the poorest families, where the problem is greatest.

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A sociology of citizenship: preliminary reflections

Sociology of citizenshipBy Indrajit Roy

Social scientists most commonly view citizenship as a juridical status conferred by states upon individuals in a national community. TH Marshall’s (1950) formulation most famously helped analysts to unpack its political, civil and social dimensions.

Marshall’s formulation has since been held up to critical scrutiny for the manner in which it foregrounded citizenship as a regime of rights. In her critique of Marshall’s account, Margaret Somners (1993: 589) reminds us that citizenship refers to an ensemble of “institutionally-embedded social practices”. The idea of citizenship as practice and process has since been emphasized by many a political theorist (Beetham, 1999; Heater, 1999; Mouffe, 1996). Such perspectives have made possible further sociological investigations into citizenship. What does citizenship actually mean to the people upon whom it is conferred as a legal status? With what meanings do people who claim it, either through petition or through struggle, imbue it? The viewpoint that citizenship is an ensemble of practices enables scholars to investigate the concrete ways in which states fashion citizens (Ong, 1999) as well as the ways in which people forge their collective selves as citizens (Lazar and Nuitjen, 2013). Continue reading

Sociology of Citizenship

Sociology of citizenshipPolitical theorists, sociologists and anthropologists are increasingly open to the idea that citizenship goes beyond the legal status conferred by states upon individuals in a national political community. The contributors to this series will focus on the concrete, empirical ways in which people make meaning of citizenship and the manner in which they forge and imagine membership in the political community. Contributors will draw on their ongoing research in different parts of the world, including South Asia, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, Africa and Latin America.