Susan Pell: “Making Citizenship Public: Identities, Practices, and Rights at Woodsquat”

Published in Citizenship Studies 12:2 (April 2008): 143-156.

Link to article (pdf).

Summary: “The common conception of citizenship is that of belonging to a political community, with the ensuing rights and responsibilities of membership. This community tends to be naturalized as the nation-state. However, this location of citizenship needs to be decentred in order to investigate current modes of democratic participation. This paper investigates current sites and practices of citizenship through reflection on a tactical housing squat of an empty department store staged by an urban social movement in Vancouver in 2002, known as ‘Woodsquat’. It uses a social movement perspective to look at citizenship, emphasizing the identities, practices, and locations of democratic engagement over the collective question of how we will live together in these places. From this point of view Woodsquat shows current limits of national citizenship, conceptually and practically, and suggests alternative possibilities for future citizenship practices located in multiple identifications with (political) communities. Moving from this analysis of political participation at Woodsquat attention is brought to the importance of spaces of democratic communication for possibilities of citizenship, where there seems to be a reinforcing relationship between public spheres, social movements, and democracy. Ultimately, then, actions at Woodsquat are argued to be a form of citizenship that emerged within a democratic public.”

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