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Oecumene: Citizenship After Orientalism

Oecumene: Citizenship After Orientalism
Oecumene explores how the concept of citizenship is being refigured and renewed around the globe.
December 2009 - April 2014

This project, led by Prof Engin Isin, is funded by the European Research Council (ERC) Advanced Grant (Institutions, values, beliefs and behaviour ERC-AG-SH2). The project focuses on the interaction between two controversial and contested concepts: citizenship – the process by which belonging is recognised and enacted – and orientalism – the assertion of the superiority of western culture over its eastern counterparts.

As regards citizenship, what it means to be a citizen, who can act as a citizen, what obligations derive from citizenship are at the forefront of much political discourse as the nation-state dissolves into regional identities, integrates — or fails to integrate — new social groups, and is transformed by supra-national entities. The question of citizenship lies at the heart of the legitimacy of rule and political subjectivity. What connects citizenship to orientalism is that when we investigate the origins of ideas about (European) citizenship we discover that it is essentially considered a Judeo-Christian development juxtaposed against Buddhism, Confucianism, Islam, and Hinduism. The project begins with a critique of the argument that explains the success of European capitalism in terms of differences in social structures that had effectively prevented the emergence of ‘citizens’ in oriental societies. The project aims to revisit questions of citizenship as political subjectivity in ‘orientalized cultures’ — Indian, Chinese, Islamic and Indigenous — through 'genealogical investigations' untrammelled by orientalist assumptions. The research methodology is genealogical through which the origins, interpretations and mutations of ideas and actions will be traced through their historical and cultural struggles. The project is deliberately designed to generate disagreements. Rather than working with like-minded collaborators, the project will engage with its antagonists through a series of workshops where opposing views will be debated and disseminated to diverse audiences. Rather than a 'critique' the project is a combination of intervention and invention.

Learn more about the research programme: Enactments