Final Report Summary - OECUMENE (Citizenship after Orientalism)
Oecumene: Citizenship after Orientalism explores how the concept of citizenship is being resignified around the globe. At a time when tumultuous world events, from Israel to India, call for a deeper understanding of the purpose and power of citizenship, the project opens up the boundaries of citizenship by exploring political subjectivities outside Europe. The project focuses on the tension between two different institutions: citizenship, the process by which political subjectivity is recognised and enacted, and orientalism, the process by which Europe is considered the birthplace of ‘universal ideas’ such as democracy, secularism, rights, and capitalism. What connects citizenship to orientalism? Historically, citizenship has been seen as an exclusively European institution contrasted against non-European societies. Yet, ‘citizenship’ as an expression of our social and political belonging has become ‘unbound’. People across the globe are inventing new ways to claim their democratic rights as citizens. The Oecumene project is about exploring colonial, imperialist, and orientalist histories of citizenship in order to speak to a future when citizenship is thought otherwise than membership in a nation-state. When nationalism in Europe and America is on the rise, it might not sound persuasive to many but this project is based on a premise that the age of the nation-state led by Europe and America is coming to a close. The great contribution of Edward Said’s book Orientalism was to have highlighted one of the strategies by which political thought centred Europe by distinguishing itself from other ‘cultures’ through a series of presences and absences. Europe was the space of presence of such things as capitalism, law, science, medicine, and labour and of broader concepts or supposed processes such as rationality, state, secularism, and bureaucracy. One such concept that came to be associated exclusively with Europe was citizenship. However, the aim of the Oecumene project is to explore the ways in which people act as citizens in the world and rejects that a rights-claiming subject was an exclusive European invention.