The Multidimensional Spatiality of Citizenship: Understanding Tensions in a Mobile World

Monday, July 14, 2014: 10:30 AM
Room: Booth 45
Oral Presentation
Nicolas VAN PUYMBROECK , Sociology, University of Antwerp (Belgium), Antwerp, Belgium
While theoretical discussions generally assume citizenship to be anchored in a particular geographic community, little attention has been devoted to how the geography of citizenship should be conceptualized. This paper argues that scholarly disagreement on the basic traits of citizenship as membership has over the years displaced the question of how to think citizenship spatially. The result of this is that political sociology still silently draws on the outdated idea of citizenship as anchored in a national and homogeneous territory with clearly delineated borders. In an age of increasing cross-border mobility however, territory is no longer the only, nor necessarily the most important, spatial form citizenship can take.

In this paper I will therefore firstly propose a typology for understanding the multidimensional spatiality of citizenship. The typology stems from an engagement with social geography, and distinguishes four spatial forms of citizenship: territory, scale, place and network. Secondly, I argue that the different dimensions of citizenship as membership link up with the spatial typology. Conceived in statist terms as a legal status and rights entitlements, citizenship is structured in a territorial or scalar fashion. Understood as a practice of participation and belonging, citizenship is anchored in a place or a network. Thirdly, the paper ends by discussing the possible tensions derived from this multiple spatiality of citizenship. It does so by elaborating on the example of cross-border workers in the enlarged European Union. As a single space for free movement and labor, each European citizen can work wherever s/he wants on the territory. From the perspective of rights entitlements however, connections to the national level remain strong, leading to tensions between territorial mobility and scalar fixity. Simultaneously however, belonging and identification often remain grounded in a local place of origin, or become dispersed across space in networks of (ethnic) affiliation.