For scholars in ethnic studies, gender and sexuality studies, and American studies, “citizenship” is far from a neutral signifier: it marks a deeply vexed and historically contingent site of struggle. Despite the rise of human rights in the postwar period, citizenship within a nation state is still the de facto basis of legal personhood in the contemporary world system: all too often, legal citizenship marks a boundary between the subject of rights and the object of state violence. At the same time, citizenship is more than a legal category. As Lauren Berlant has written, it is also felt as an intimate relationship among strangers, a common identity rooted in a geopolitical space. As such, it is an institutionally constructed promise of security and “the good life,” one which is unevenly delivered due to the social hierarchies on which the nation state depends.
This conference brings together scholars from a variety of fields to address the ways in which citizenship operates as a terrain of struggle. What does the history of state violence and mass incarceration tell us about the racialized nature of citizenship in the United States, and the ultimate revocability of legal personhood? How has the gap between lived experience and the promises of citizenship generated new democratic struggles? When has this gap generated a fierce and exclusionary over-identification with citizenship, constitutive of political reaction? How have people organized collectively in ways that push against citizenship as the ultimate rubric of political subjectivity? And how is the citizen/non-citizen dyad crucial to the accumulation of capital and the maintenance of empire? Panelists from the University of Connecticut and across the country will discuss the ways in which their work intersects with such questions, and we hope to bring together their insights in an edited volume on the theme of contested citizenship.
Thursday, March 30
5:00 pm Reception
5:30pm Keynote: Vijay Prashad (Trinity College)
Introduction by Cathy Schlund-Vials (UConn)
University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT 06269