Cultural Citizenship

Toby Miller. Handbook of Citizenship Studies. Editor: Engin F Isin & Bryan S Turner. Sage Publication. 2002.

Citizenship today takes a number of forms. Perhaps the most discussed are political and economic citizenship. In this chapter, I focus on cultural citizenship and its differences from these forms, examining in particular its enabling condition of existence—immigration—and its enabling intervention governmental means of producing cultural subjects.

Political citizenship permits voting, appeals to representative government, and guarantees of physical security in return for ceding the right to violence to the state. Its founding assumption is that personal freedom is both the wellspring of good government and the authority of that government over individuals. In Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s paradox, this involves ‘making men free by making them subject’ (Rousseau, [1762] 1975: 123). As developed through capitalism, slavery, colonialism, and liberalism, political citizenship has expanded its reach and definition exponentially since the eighteenth century, though it remains unevenly spread across the globe.

Economic citizenship covers employment, health, and retirement security through the redistribution of capitalist gains and the use of the state as an agent of investment. In the words of Australia’s World War II Prime Minister John Curtin, ‘government should be the agency whereby the masses should be lifted up’ (quoted in van Creveld, 1999: 355). Economic citizenship emerged from the Depression and decolonization as a promise of full employment in the First World and economic development in the Third. Today, it is in decline, displaced by the historic policy renegotiations of the 1970s conducted by capital, the state, and their intellectual servants in economics that redistributed income back to bourgeoisies.

Cultural citizenship concerns the maintenance and development of cultural lineage via education, custom, language, and religion, and the positive acknowledgement of difference in and by the mainstream. It is a developing discourse, in response to the great waves of cross-class migration of the past fifty years and an increasingly mobile middle class culture-industry workforce generated by a new international division of cultural labor (NIDCL) that favors North over South and capital over labor, as film and television production, computing, and sport go global in search of locations, skills, and docile labor. Within the NIDCL, certain cosmopolitans embark on what Aihwa Ong (1999: 112-13) calls ‘flexible citizenship,’ a strategic making-do that seeks access to as many rights as possible whilst falling prey to as few responsibilities as possible. This conduct matches corporate trends of globalization. It alienates those who wish that others had an affective, allegedly non-sectarian relationship with the state as well as an instrumental one (though the latter might be regarded by institutionalist political science as an exemplary instance of interest-group pluralism, or lauded by neoclassical economists as market-style shopping!) (Aleinikoff, 2000: 132, 145). Meanwhile, away from the capitalist class and the salariat, those affected by the division of labor in manufacturing and agriculture need rights to communication in the new media. Of course, many migrant workers around the world are ‘temporary’ or ‘undocumented’ workers—neither citizens nor immigrants. Their identity is quite separate from both their domicile and their source of sustenance, and they are guaranteed equitable treatment not by sovereign states, but through the supranational discourse of human rights and everyday customs and beliefs that superintend the legal obligations of conventional citizenship (Shafir, 1998: 20, 19).

Put another way, we might say that where classical political theory accorded political representation to the citizen through the state, the distinctively modern economic addendum to this was that the state promised a minimum standard of living, provided that the citizen recognized a debt to the great institutions of welfare. The decisive postmodern guarantee is access to the technologies of communication. The latter promise derives its force from a sense that political institutions need to relearn what sovereignty is about in polymorphous sovereign states that are diminishingly homogeneous in demographic terms and increasingly heteroglossic in their cultural competence. Contradictory accounts of the citizen emerge from the presumption that the work of executive government is to tell the people why they should be faithful to it, whilst claiming their considered acceptance and support as the grounds for its own existence (Miller, 1993).

This is especially true in the multiple identity of the citizen-consumer. On the one hand, the government places great faith in the capitalist system, which necessarily produces inequalities of income and operates via the desiring machinery of utility maximization. Some confusion results from the need to yoke together the rational citizen, who thinks of the greater good of the greater number, and the rational consumer, who valorizes him or herself. They are both called up inside the one subject, who must be taught to distinguish between public goods, where one person’s consumption does not preclude another’s, and private goods, where it does. Now that many forms of publicly expressed identity have emerged from a combination of expanded human and civil rights discourse and expanded niche marketing, globalizing and privatizing norms merge with forms of consumer targeting to produce new kinds of civic life. Opportunities for marginal groups to express themselves, and fears for legitimacy on the part of hitherto dominant social classes, amount to a double movement of renewal under the sign of citizenship within a civil society that ‘exists over against the state, in partial independence from it’ (Taylor, 1990: 95).

Theorizing Cultural Citizenship

There have been three key sites for theorizing cultural citizenship activity, each with strong links to the public sphere. They emerged at the same time, but with seemingly minimal interaction. Since the late 1980s, Tony Bennett and colleagues in the cultural-policy studies movement have focused on a guaranteed set of cultural competences that government should give to its citizenry. Their primary interlocutor is the Australian federal government’s cultural bureaucracy, and their admirers include others in search of influence beyond affective protest (American Behavioral Scientist, 2000; Bennett, 1998; Miller, 1998). Renato Rosaldo and colleagues in Californian, Texan, and New York Latino/a studies of the same period look to a guaranteed set of rights for minorities. Their primary interlocutor is Latino/a social movements, and their admirers include the Fresno Bee newspaper (Rosaldo, 1997; Flores and Benmayor, 1997; Rodriguez and Gonzales, 1995). Finally, Will Kymlicka and fellow liberal political theorists seek a rapprochement between collective minority cultures and individual majority culture. Their primary interlocutor is a series of states dealing with ethnic minorities, and their admirers include the Wall Street Journal (Kymlicka, 1995; Zachary, 2000). Where Rosaldo et al. seek to transform as well as to use citizenship for the purposes of their own culture and others marginalized by the majority, Bennett and Kymlicka seek to utilize it for a general purpose that takes account of minorities. For Rosaldo, US culture is distinguished by the Latino/a immigrant experience of disenfranchisement. As such, culture substantively trumps formal univer salism. Kymlicka thinks similarly. For Bennett, culture is a set of tools for living that are deployed or not depending on their value for achieving specific purposes, rather than purely expressive ends in themselves. Rosaldo is critical of liberal government for its myths of the sovereign individual and assumptions of a shared language and culture. Kymlicka endorses liberalism provided that it allows for real protection to minorities—as a matter of justice and self-interest. Bennett endorses liberal government as a project of constituting, not drawing upon, the liberal individual, and is agnostic about its humanist claims.

Most proponents of cultural citizenship argue that identity is developed and secured through a cultural context. On this reading, collective senses of self are more important than monadic ones, and rights and responsibilities can be determined in accordance with cultural membership rather than the individual (Fierlbeck, 1996: 4, 6). For some critics, this flexibility can be achieved through a doctrine of cultural rights. For others, such as Amélie Oksenberg Rorty, it is a by-product of universal access to education, a ‘primary condition of free and equal citizen participation in public life’ (Rorty, 1995: 162). Rorty opposes public funding to sustain specific cultural norms of familial or religious origin, calling instead for a curriculum designed to generate cosmopolitans who learn about their country and its ‘global neighbors’ in a way that does not adjudicate between identities as workers, believers, or other forms of life that exist alongside one’s culture of origin (Rorty, 1995: 164). Her argument is a collectivist flip-side to human-capital données about individuals maximizing their utility through investment in skills. It reunites cultural citizenship with liberalism. Each position is fundamentally concerned with efficient and effective social life and naturalization requirements. For instance, to become a citizen of the USA other than by birth or blood, one must reside there, know the country’s basic political history, ‘read, write, and speak words in ordinary usage in the English language,’ and neither consort with sex workers nor be repeatedly drunk in public. One must also renounce allegiance to other states (Aleinikoff, 2000: 130). These conditions reference the key crisis that has underpinned the clamor for cultural citizenship—immigration.


Orthodox histories of citizenship postulate it as the Western outcome of ‘fixed identities, unproblematic nationhood, indivisible sovereignty, ethnic homogeneity, and exclusive citizenship’ (Mahmud, 1997: 633; also see Hindess, 1998). These histories ignore the fact that theories of citizenship were forged in relation to the imperial and colonial encounters of West and East as a justification of extra-territorial subjugation, followed by incorporation of the periphery into an international system of labor. These conditions led in turn to cultural policy concerns with language, heritage, and identity, expressed by both metropole and periphery as they exchanged people and cultures and governed by an overt logic of superiority whose legacies many see in the universalism of human-rights discourse (Mahmud, 1999: 1223). Western states derived an ethics from the bloodletting and conquest of war and nationalism that differentiated their forms of political organization from prior and alternative styles of governing. The West’s model concentrated all such functions under its sovereign control, defined territorially to claim the right to govern conduct within its boundaries. In the process, the state established itself as an abstraction beyond embodiment in a monarch or a group, such that it could survive their expiration and engage in its own rites of personification and auto-anthropomorphism.

In turn, it opened these rites up to other non-human actors, such as corporations. That very non-human activism has latterly drawn into question the state’s future, as multinational firms have grown in their economic reach and legal stature to attain the national and international status that was once only available to states (van Creveld, 1999: 415-16). In turn, they create and touch upon forms of cultural life that achieve an institutional personality. This is the current legacy of globalization. Of course, there are more valuable aspects to this legacy. In Argentina, for example, which has a migrant workforce from Bolivia and Paraguay to do menial jobs, leftists attempt to extend a more general rights-inflected citizenship to them by arguing that recently achieved rights in the aftermath of dictatorship should be extended to all residents. This promotes a multicultural framework, as in countries that do not have migrant workforces, e.g. Mexico and Colombia. Citizenship rethought as the struggles of social movements is strong in many other countries and in UNESCO.

In some sense we can see globalizing origins of cultural-citizenship discourse very far back. In 1513, one of the early major Spanish excursions to destroy pre-Columbian civilization was subject to serious ideological retooling by a theological committee. It provided the conquistadores with a manifesto that was translated for the Indians. It was a world history told through the anointing of Peter as Christ’s vicar on Earth, which was used to justify later Popes dividing up the world. The document concluded with a chilling warning of what would happen in the event of resistance to imperial conquest: Indian women and children would be enslaved, their goods seized, and culpability laid at the feet of the vanquished. In its careful attention to ideology, its alibi in divine nomination, and its overtly political use of non-combatants as symbols, this is a remarkably modern text, so overt are its precepts. Of course, its superstition (Christianity) is non-modern, but the text’s mode of address is incantatory and reasoned in its brutality—fire and the sword will prevail, so follow the direct line of reasoning from God and you will be spared. The Aztecs and Incas whom the Spanish subsequently overthrew had shown no such desire for cultural justification in destroying the civilizations they had found. And unlike other conquerors, the Spanish did not present themselves as superior simply as selected by God’s delegate (Brown, 2000: 203-5). Nevertheless, the result of this has been precisely to exclude other forms of culture from full citizenship as the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean/Comisión Económica por America Latina has recently noted with reference to indigenous peoples, African Americans, and Afro-Caribbeans (Xinha News Agency, 2000).

This harsh link of soil and blood has remained central to citizenship rights. Most states confer these rights through jus sanguinis, or blood right, based on parentage. The USA is unusual in that it uses jus sanguinis only for children born overseas to its own citizens. A much older, medieval concept is dominant: jus soli, a right of the soil that is based on residence. This principle derives from the Fourteenth Amendment’s anti-racist guarantee of citizenship to those born or naturalized in the USA. (Until 1865, white male immigrants could vote without being naturalized, but native-born women and people of color could not.) This history of racialization and deracialization has made US citizenship policy close to culture from day one (Aleinikoff, 2000: 124, 151, 151 n. 67).

Traditional views of naturalized citizenship have been thrown into confusion by late twentieth-century immigration and multiculturalism (Feldblum, 1997: 103). Liberal ideals assume a migrant subject who throws off prior loyalties in order to become a citizen. Alongside nationals of the same country, they put aside social divisions in the common interest. Liberalism assumes, with neoclassical economics, that people emerge into citizenship fully formed, as sovereign individuals with personal preferences. Multiculturalism, by contrast, blurs the lines between individualism and communitarianism. Multiculturalism assumes, with communitarianism, that group loyalties override this notion. But where communitarianism assumes people find their collective identity through political participation, multiculturalism assumes, with liberalism, that this subjectivity is ordained prior to politics (Shafir, 1998: 10-11).

The new conditions of citizenship may not locate fealty in the sovereign state, nor do they necessarily articulate with democracy, because subjects of the international trade in labor frequently lack the access to power of native-born sons and daughters (Preuss, 1998: 310). In Europe, the creation of ‘supranational citizenship’ in 1992 problematized coupling citizenship to national culture. At the same time that this recognized a new international division of labor, equivalent moves limited the rights of guest workers—a common move in supposedly liberal democracies. Consider the situation of those who, because of changed socioeconomic conditions, become officially acceptable migrant-citizens having previously been pariahs. For example, excluding and brutalizing Asians had been historically critical to white Australian citizenship and national identity for most of the twentieth century, until Asian economic power became clear in the 1970s. Asian Australians’ latter-day take on citizenship is, not surprisingly, instrumental. They are concerned with rights, but they may not feel patriotic (Ip et al., 1997).

Bonnie Honig (1998) has shown that immigrants have long been the limit-case for loyalty, as per Ruth the Moabite in the Jewish Bible/Old Testament. Such figures are both perilous for the sovereign state (where does their fealty lie?) and symbolically essential (as the only citizens who make a deliberate decision to swear allegiance to an otherwise mythic social contract). In the case of the USA, immigrants are crucial to the foundational ethos of consent, for they represent alienation from their places of origin and endorsement of the New World. This makes a national culture all the more fraught, for just as the memory of what has been lost (by choice) is strong, so is the necessity to shore up the ‘preference’ expressed for US norms.

This becomes as much a pragmatic question as a moral one under present circumstances in the United States. In the post-1960s period, the rise of welfare, along with the state’s incapacity to prevent undocumented immigration, has rendered jus soli extremely expensive for the middle class and hence contentious. We already know from the US Census of 2000 that in the past decade the country’s Asian and Pacific Islander population increased by 43% and its Hispanic population by 38.8%. Between those two groups, African Americans, and Native Americans, 79.2 million US residents define themselves as minorities (‘Hispanic,’ 2000). The foreign-born proportion of the population is 10%—double the figure from 1970. Similar numbers are becoming normal in large Western democracies. Non-citizens make up 6.3% of the French population and 8.5% of the German (Aleinikoff, 2000: 121, 126).

Some critics, such as Rosaldo, claim that the difficulty with encouraging minority groups in the USA to vote, and the low levels of naturalization for non-Asian minority immigrants (in the 1990s, 57.6% of immigrants from Asia became US citizens versus 32.2% of Hispanics [Aleinikoff, 2000: 130]) can be addressed by promoting cultural citizenship—that one can have multiple affinities, to ‘former’ languages, places, or norms and to adopted countries. The Fresno Bee says cultural citizenship is ‘a concept sweeping America’s universities,’ eschewing assimilation but demanding rights, including immigrant cultural maintenance. In support of this, the paper argues that a ‘Salvadoran family… is Salvadoran whether they live in Washington, D.C., or San Salvador’ (Rodriguez and Gonzales, 1995). Perhaps but if they are, what should happen to them if there is a military conflict between El Salvador and the United States, and they are called upon to fight for one side or both; or less spectacularly, which set of national laws should apply to them and those around them? (Consider the fate of Japanese Americans during World War II.) If, as the Fresno Bee asserts, this dualism is a matter of ‘basic human rights,’ what if El Salavador and the USA adopt different positions on human rights—or similar ones, but they are infractions of the very concept as parlayed through the UN? The recent history of the two nations makes this debate far from abstract.

Citizenship can also bedevil internal migration. In China, the market reforms of the past decade and a half have had the historically typical capitalist effect of a huge demographic pull away from the countryside and toward the city. Because of China’s complex system of household registration, ideas of citizenship are closely tied to regionalism and policing. As peasants are not registered municipally, those who have flooded the cities from the countryside since the mid-1980s are essentially denied citizenship rights such as education and health care, not to mention housing. There seems to be as little incentive for locals and the state to include them as there is a desire on their part to be incorporated. This dilemma prob-lematizes the long-held liberal assumption of a fit between the spread of citizenship and the rise of capitalism or urbanism (Solinger, 1999: 1-5).

When the Soviet Union broke up, its former republics had two choices in dealing with their sizeable Russian-speaking minorities: either propound a cultural nationalism that marginalized the Russian language and set religious, racial, and linguistic criteria for citizenship (as per Estonia and Latvia); or adopt a civic policy that offered entitlements based on territory, fealty, and labor (which took place in Ukraine and Kazakhstan) (Laitin, 1999: 314-17). Today, the Estonian government has to deal with a sizeable Russian minority, which it initially alienated by adopting a hard-line nationalism. The government is trying to defuse the situation via Russian-language schools and cultural groups—courtesy of a Kymlicka consultancy (Zachary, 2000).

In both intra- and international environments, there are ongoing tensions between doctrines of cultural rights and liberal individualism. Consider the Salman Rushdie case, in which a person was sentenced to death in absentia by a country of which he was not a citizen and in which he had not been tried for any crime. And does a respect for different cultures mean that Saudia Arabia and Iran should respect the universalist claims of individualistic human rights discourse—or that Britain and the United States should respect the universalist claims of collectivist Islamic dignity discourse? The problems multiply with religions such as Buddhism, Confucianism, and Hinduism, which are atextual and non-transcendent by contrast with Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. What happens when the existence lived well and in accord with rigorous principles of loyalty or decency in public life bumps up against reincarnation and family values, which trump the notion of life as an individual project (Brown, 2000: 200, 206)? Cultural rights and human rights do not fit together easily: how, for instance, might the New York Times reconcile its seemingly absolutist support for protecting indigenous people from ‘cultural extinction’ with its ringing denunciations of ritualized female slavery in religious shrines as atonement for the crimes of others in West Africa (Johnson, 2000: 405, 410)? And what should be our attitude to the National Rifle Association of the United States taking up the cudgels (or whatever weapon was to hand) on behalf of resident aliens when Congress proposed limiting the right to own guns to citizens (Aleinikoff, 2000: 161 n. 97)?

Multiple affinities produce practical and ideological problems. The 1932 Hague Convention on nationality states that ‘the international community’ needs a system whereby ‘every person should have a nationality and should have one nationality only’ (quoted in Aleinikoff, 2000: 137). Dual citizenship’s institutionalization of split subjectivity goes further than querying voting, military service, and diplomatic aid. It gets to the heart of an affective relation to the nation-state. For all that the USA calls for membership of just one polity, there are four ways of attaining dual nationality there: naturalization, having renounced one’s original citizenship, then resumption of it with the USA none the wiser; naturalization, with renunciation not recognized by one’s country of origin; birth in the USA to immigrant parents from a country that recognizes jus sanguinis; and birth outside the USA to a foreigner and a US citizen.

Mexico has been much more protectionist than the USA—not surprisingly, since its land was expropriated (‘No crucé la frontera, la frontera me cruzó a mó’ [I didn’t cross the border, it crossed me]; ‘young Chicana poet’ quoted in Rosaldo, 1997: 31). To own land in Mexico, foreigners had to renounce the right to diplomatic protection by their countries of citizenship, and land ownership in coastal and border territories has been subject to additional restrictions. But now that the NICL sees so much money held by transnationals, the government has adopted a different position. Since NAFTA and California’s Proposition 187, Mexico must deal with increased emigration to the USA and ensure that its nationals have political power over the border whilst retaining economic status at ‘home.’ As in the USA, all persons born in Mexico are nationals, and naturalizing aliens must renounce their citizenship of origin. Becoming a citizen of another nation once required renunciation of Mexicanness, although jus sanguinismade the latter genetically inalienable—adults could lose their own Mexican citizenship, but still transmit it to their progeny. Since 1997, dual nationality has been permitted. It can also be achieved retrospectively, though the right to vote remains the sole province of residents. The Dominican Republic enacted similar arrangements in 1994. So a Dominican American can act as a politician in both Santo Domingo and Washington Heights, and a non-resident South Asian naturalized in the USA can own a Pennsylvania hotel chain, then expand it to Mumbai. This transnational identity has both a practical and a normative aspect. Not only does it facilitate the NICL, but various romantic souls ascribe to it a cosmopolitan effect of exchange between cultures without the obliteration of difference—thousands of blooming, mutually respectful flowers (Bauböck, 2000: 306-7; Aleinikoff, 2000: 138-9, 142, 144, 162-3).

But as Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick (1990: 61) notes, even social movements that are founded on difference are bound up with practices of exclusion. United fronts adopted for the purposes of external conflictual engagement always conceal ‘differences… raging behind’ (Hall, 1991: 56). Paradoxically, the standardization of identity politics references the difference-crushing machines of universalism that it was designed to counter, because it can downplay or deny either particular traits of conduct or whole categories of person (Mouffe, 1992, 1993). Stuart Hall has demonstrated both the utility of the word ‘Black’ in the UK context as a reversed, renewing trope against racism, and its more negative coefficients: the exclusion of Asian people of color and black people who have other coordinates of collective identification. A respect for cultural difference founded in relativism can, on the other hand, amount to a rather bland version of functionalist thought—meaning and custom binding people together (Johnson, 2000: 411).

One crucial issue is whether, in ethno-methodological terms, cultures permit folks to say ‘Please don’t include me’—in other words, can Membership Categorization Devices (MCDs) be refused? This is where any culturalist project of radical democracy must, in my view, make some peace with liberal political philosophy (LPP). LPP argues that the state should recognize the right of individuals to be respected as citizens and as members of a culture, because deciding to participate in that culture may be in their interest for collective or personal identity (for example, exempting Sikhs from British motorcycle-helmet legislation because of their need to wear turbans). The state can and should intervene, however, when members of those cultures seek to opt out, when MCDs become oppressive (for example, when a British woman rejects her Muslim parents’ plans for an arranged marriage). This is a double bind—cultures should be protected from external oppression, even as their members must be protected from internal oppression (Johnson, 2000: 406, 408).

David Birch (1998a and b) argues from such a position that the discourse of pan-Asian ‘values’ was invented within authoritarian states in South-East Asia across the 1970s and 1980s to protect oligarchical and monopolistic power structures that felt threatened by the popular-cultural corollaries of international capitalism and their message of social transcendence. ‘Asian values’ became a distinctive means of policing the populace in the name of an ‘abiding’ idea of personhood that was in fact a reaction to the growth of capitalism and participation in international cultural exchange, while press freedom was constrained in the name of nation-building. So ‘Asianness’ may be an alibi for domestic social control. Whether we explain, say, the Singaporean state’s anxieties in terms of values or power, its object of concern remains the citizen, and its realm for articulating these concerns is cultural policy.

Producing Cultural Subjects

Rousseau ([1762] 1975: 130) insists that ‘It is not enough to say to the citizens, be good, they must be taught to be so.’ Since the nineteenth century, cultural policy has been the lever turned to by liberal-capitalist states to encourage their populations to ‘be good.’ Cultural policy always implies the management of populations through suggested behavior. It is a normalizing power that sets an ideal for the subject which can never quite be attained, yet enjoins that subject to strive for it via a doctrine of ethical incompleteness (Miller, 1993). This notion is premised on instilling a drive towards perfection (as the best possible consumer, patriot, or ideologue). It inscribes a radical indeterminacy in the subject in the name of loyalty to a more complete entity—the nation. Cultural policy finds, serves, and nurtures a sense of belonging through educational and other cultural regimes that are predicated on an insufficiency of the individual against the benevolent historical backdrop of the nation. These regimes are the means of forming a collective public subjectivity via what John Stuart Mill termed ‘the departments of human interests amenable to governmental control’ ([1869] 1974: 68). Much of this is done in the name of maintaining culture, to preserve ways of being a person (or to retain control over a population) in terms of ethnicity, age, gender, faith, or class.

These regimes can also manage change, often by advancing new modes of expression. Some innovations prioritize indigenous cultural production, placing a premium on locally made meanings and their systems. Others embrace technological developments, producing the need for a citizenry equipped with the latest and the best. Whilst there are superficial differences between a collectivist ethos and Mill’s individualistic utilitarianism, they share the precept that ethico-aesthetic exercise is a necessary prerequisite to developing the responsible individual (Lloyd and Thomas, 1998: 121). ‘Good taste’ becomes both a sign of and a means towards better citizenship. This ethico-aesthetic exercise also has a postmodern version: culture is the legitimizing ground on which particular groups (e.g., African Americans, gays and lesbians, the hearing-impaired) can make a claim for resources and inclusion in the national narrative, if only to decenter it (Yúdice, 1990). Normalization’s performative force varies across time and space. It favors bourgeois manners for a circumscribed set of individuals in one period, and stratifying access to cultural and other material resources on the basis of divers demographic categorizations at another (e.g. the five panethnic categories that characterize the US census, media and consumer markets, and political voting blocs).

Culture is connected to policy in two registers: the artistic and the everyday. Artistic output emerges from creative people and is judged by aesthetic criteria, as framed by the interests and practices of textual studies and cultural history. Everyday customs reference how we live our lives, the sense of place and person that makes us human. Cultural policy refers, then, to the institutional supports that channel both aesthetic creativity and collective ways of life. It is embodied in a systematic, regulatory guide to action that is adopted by an organization to achieve its goals. In short, cultural policy is bureaucratic rather than creative or organic. Organizations solicit, train, distribute, finance, describe, and reject actors and activities that go under the signs of artist or artwork, through the implementation of policies. Governments, trade unions, colleges, social movements, community groups, foundations, and businesses aid, fund, control, promote, teach, and evaluate creative persons; in fact, they often decide and implement the very criteria that make possible the use of the word ‘creative.’ This may be done through law courts that permit erotica on the grounds that they are works of art, curricula that require students to read plays on the grounds that they are uplifting, film commissions that sponsor scripts on the grounds that they reflect national concerns, entrepreneurs who print symphonic program notes justifying an unusual season on the grounds of innovation, or foundations that sponsor the community culture of minorities on the grounds of supplementing (mostly white) middle class culture with ‘diversity.’ In turn, these criteria may themselves derive, respectively, from legal doctrines, citizenship or tourism aims, the profit plans of impresarios, or philanthropic criteria. The second understanding of culture may appear in academic anthropology or journalistic explanations of the Zeitgeist. For instance, references to the cultures of indigenous peoples by anthropologists before land-rights tribunals are in part determined by the rules of conduct adopted by the state in the light of political power. Similarly, references to dot-com caffeine culture by newspaper feature writers are in part determined by the rules of conduct adopted by their editors/proprietors in the light of market segmentation. We hear about these lifestyle/ritual practices through policy. There are inescapable contradictions in this model, and they become evident when cultural policy’s favored method of animation—the creation of abstract subjects as objects of knowledge—is coupled with intervening in all areas of life. Whilst this enables training and surveillance, it simultaneously divides subjects up so carefully that they cease to be rallied under the clarion call of the abstract citizen. Instead, they look outside representative democracy for public definitions and political technologies of identity. That opportunity derives from the manifold activities of the state, which interpellate the subject beyond the technical role of the citizen: working, living, and birthing subjects are of more poignant, consistent, and pregnant moment on a diurnal basis. Governments may yearn for social efficiency, ‘a happy, healthy, virile and integrated social body,’ but their policies and programs often uncover or generate a productively fractured sovereignty (Barron, 1990: 109, 116-17).

Cultural Governmentality

These contradictions are obvious in the case of sport. At times, the codification and expansion of sport in the USA as part of cultural governmentality encountered critique and engagement, for example, from those seventeenth-century northeastern Puritans who devoted great efforts towards quelling such pleasures of the lower orders as cock-fighting and horse-racing. This spread to the classically modern abhorrence of cruelty to animals across the country in the nineteenth century, with associated state intervention. But the push towards Americanization of new immigrants in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was embodied in the formation of voluntary sporting associations. In the two decades from 1881, the USA birthed national bodies to regulate tennis, golf, and college sports. Over the next twenty years, baseball, hockey, and football professionalized. During World War I, there was a major articulation of sporting values with militarism and citizenship an internal Americanization equating national sports with patriotism. The American Legion sponsored baseball to counter working-class radicalism and encourage social and migrant integration. When feminist criticisms of sport emerged in the 1960s, part of their force concerned the claim to equitable public funding. Hence the Federal Government’s 1972 Title IX Educational Amendments, which forced US colleges in receipt of Federal funds to allocate them across campus in accord with the proportions of men and women they enrolled. These were among the first women’s legislative gains of the contemporary era, and they addressed the expenditure of state money on the body as a source of fitness—cultural citizenship at play (Houlihan, 1997: 62, 56, 63). And when we look back with some measure of distance on Eastern European and Third World state socialism of the 1980s, it may be possible to acknowledge the critical role that these nations played in finally persuading the West to follow an all-sports boycott of apartheid South Africa because it did not permit universal suffrage (Booth, 1998: 85-122).

Despite its mission of producing citizens, cultural policy is now linked by both the Left and Right sides of politics to citizenship. It offers radicals a means of tying socialmovement claims to actionable policy, a newly valuable form of entitlement that is a guarantee against the excesses of both the market and state socialism. On the Right, culture is subject to privatization pressures. Citizens and consumers continue their uncertain dance in the rhetoric of political philosophy, neoclassical economics, and neoliberal policy mandarinism (Zolberg, 1996: 396). An additional division on the Right exists between those who consider that citizens’ responsibilities go beyond the self, and those who do not. Cultural policy has seen a series of debates in which seeming polar opposites—the Right versus multicultural arts—appear to be logocentrically interdependent. Each group dismisses traditional aesthetics in favor of a struggle to use art to represent identity and social purpose (Yódice, 1990: 130). Multiculturalism stresses the need for a grassroots and marginal arts activism, focused on civil rights, and a combination of demographic and artistic representation and representativeness. Conservatism calls for an arts practice that heralds Western values and progress while obeying the dictates of religious taste.

We need to reconceptualize the three forms of citizenship as interlocking zones, interdependent and equally important—not just in terms of individual access, but as measured by political participation, economic development, cultural norms, and tastes. Second, immigration and the NICL must be centered in deliberations that look to those who are disenfranchised from citizenship and consumption, via a global commitment to workers’ rights inflected with questions of cultural exchange.

The technology of citizenship, of shared rights, has been the principal arguing point shared by modern movements of emancipation. The idea that political rights are granted to all through birth has animated the claims of every category of the oppressed since the eighteenth century. Even so, the struggle, once won, has rarely satisfied. Equal access to citizenship has not led to social justice for all, because of the propensity towards economic anarchy and political oligarchy, and because the discourse of justice increasingly presumes a space of autonomy between person, economy, and polity, rather than a policy of assurance by the last on behalf of the first, or some other variant. For this reason, Iris Marion Young (1990) proposes ‘group-differentiated citizenship.’ She acknowledges the value of universalism in terms of ‘a general will and common life,’ but is critical of the exclusion from dialogue of a raft of groups under such totalities. Too often, the notion of citizenship functions as a ‘demand for homogeneity.’ This can be avoided if access to political decisions is institutionalized for all categories of person, however different (Young, 1990: 117-19, 126).

For marginal or resistive groups to function, they must clearly harness both a reformism that knows the subjectifying technologies of the cultural-capitalist state, and a means of fashioning their own technologies of the self. The state uses the concepts of the nation and the individual as tropes to engender fealty. But even these homogenizing categories may be usefully deployed by various subordinate groups, because the heterogeneous composition of populations necessitates a certain regard for difference. The state is ultimately a grid of governance that brings together some really quite distinct forces in the management of people. In particular, cultural-capitalist democracies specialize in ‘action at a distance.’ They seek to organize the social world not merely through institutional agencies of the state, but via a very broad band of knowledge across public health, social work, auditing, accountancy, and other modes of modulation. There are always opportunities for the expression of difference in so dispersed a set of actions. Such openings arise because the very act of government involves problematizing, bringing subjects into doubt, dividing them conceptually to render social issues manageable, but thereby creating more and more difficulties in need of resolution (Rose and Miller, 1992: 174-5, 180-1). For example, the fictions of racial democracy in Brazil and racial inclusiveness in the USA, as registered/ reified in the census, have ironically provided social movements with the means of critique, because they can point to correlations of social division with inequality and then call for a full entry into modernity (Nobles, 2000: 4-5).

Cultural governmentality has mixed consequences. Attempts to look at reproductive ritual in Egyptian villages or Brazilian cities, for example, must think through the meaning of custom in the context of experiments in birth control sanctioned by the nation-state, international state organizations, and scientists accredited by state policing norms, while the recent US adoption market in white babies has made Romania a key supplier because of governmental opposition there to contraception (Ginsburg and Rapp, 1995: 2; Barroso and Corrêa, 1995; Kligman, 1995). It may even be that a form of international civil society is at play that ‘works’ the state into compliance with associational norms of socioeconomic development, citizenship rights, national science policy, justice, public health, and universal education—in short, responsibility for the population’s progress that is as much about meeting international expectations expressed by academia, the media, and nongovernmental organizations, as it is to do with rational, purposive action that is ‘essential’ to statehood (Meyer et al., 1997).

What of the issues raised by immigration? Instead of a binding, but not freely made, social contract, there might be a different engagement between state and person, one that eschews blood, soil, or travel—a quid pro quo based not on the notion that people pledge allegiance and practice obedience in return for rights, but that they do so by giving and receiving things. Population becomes a master signifier, displacing the mythic compact, and demography succeeds LPP as its principal interpretive method. This is equally a means of getting away from thinking of people as consumers, and of dealing with the complexities of the NICL’s deterritorialization—we all end up in material space, however cosmopolitan we may be. Nor is this wish-fulfillment, for even under globalization, there is always already government. Even globally exploitative non-state actors, like US Major League Baseball or Nike, may be accountable under international law for their human-rights abuses (Marcano and Fidder, 1999: 557).

In any event, citizenship is no longer easily based on soil or blood. Rather, it is founded on some variant of those qualities in connection with culture and the capitalist labor market. The state is no longer the sole frame of citizenship in the face of new nationalisms and cross-border affinities that no single governmental apparatus can contain (Feldblum, 1997: 96, 98-9, 101, 110). Supranational citizenship and identity are not only tied to a new international division of labor, but also to a new trading order, in which juridically established trading blocs like North American Free Trade Agreement/ Trato de Comercio Libre, the Mercado Comón del Sur, and the European Union make decisions that override national laws. In fact, awareness that the rule of law transcends the nation-state can lead to a more compelling supranational identity, as witnessed by the number of cases brought by individuals to the European Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights (Cohen, 1991). These actions were feasible because of cultural citizenship’s uptake as a crucial site of governmentality. Therein lies promise for a radical democratic politics.