Archipelagic Nations: Situating Citizenship in Education

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The ‘citizenship issue’ has become a major source of media and political debate as we grapple with the complexities of living in a diverse and globalising social form. This paper problematises citizenship in education at the level of lived experience, noting that specific debates around the citizenship of those in post compulsory educational systems are muted. Greater air space is consumed by engagement with the liberal, ‘safety-first’ approach in response to anxious discourses such as that of ‘integration’, institutionalised through school curricula. Drawing on findings from a collaborative project, we consider our explorations of the ‘problem’ of citizenship with some of our undergraduate students. These took students and staff into a variety of educational settings including schools, colleges and a ‘free’ school. In each, different models of citizenship prevail, and different kinds of citizens are produced and are productive of citizenship communities. This paper examines the difficulties of our students moving from commonsense understandings of citizenship to an informed and critical engagement. It elaborates on the ways in which this leads to a questioning of, and transformations in, the roles of, and the relationships between, staff, students, the university and sociology. The paper concludes that the problem of citizenship can be understood as one of praxis. In particular, it notes the power of the sociological imagination in its defamiliarisation, reflexivity, and contestation, to disrupt citizenship relations in the university and beyond. The picture painted of citizenship in this study is of uncertain, complex becomings in which ‘citizens’ fall into cross cutting, and diverse groupings. Whereas the dominant agenda in citizenship education in the UK suggests adherence to a traditional pluralism, we found that in the praxis of doing citizenship, the liberal model is unhinged by the diverse identities and concerns of situated citizens.


Keywords: Education, Diverse Communities, Situated Citizenship
Stream: Education and Social Welfare
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: , , , , , , , Archipelagic Nations


Dr. Judith Burnett

Associate Head of School, The School of Social Sciences, Media and Cultural Studies, The University of East London
London, UK

Dr. Judith Burnett is Associate Head of the School of Social Sciences, Media and Cultural Studies at the University of East London, UK. Her research explores social change, particularly in the area of lifecourse, cohorts and generations, and she has a long term interest in inequality, diversity and participation. She has published in the area of generations and social theory, and the emergence of Thirtysomething as an age based identity and generational experience. Other work explores material cultures, including the use of technologies in teaching and learning, and citizenship in educational contexts.

Dr. Erika Cudworth

Senior Lecturer in Politics and Sociology, School of Social Sciences, Media and Cultural Studies, The University of East London
London, UK, UK

Dr. Erika Cudworth is Senior Lecturer in Politics and Sociology in the School of Social Sciences, Media and Cultural Studies at the University of East London, UK. Her research interests include: social and political theory, particularly feminisms, ecologisms and complexity theory, food consumption and production, human relations with non-human animals and educational inclusions/exclusions. She is author of Environment and Society (Routledge, 2003), Developing Ecofeminist Theory: the Complexity of Difference (Palgrave 2005) and The Modern State: Theories and Ideologies (with Tim Hall and John McGovern, Edinburgh University Press 2007).

Ref: I08P0248