In the 'Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals', Immanuel Kant writes: 'In the kingdom of ends everything has either a price or a dignity. What has a price can be replaced by something else as its equivalent; what on the other hand is raised above all price and therefore admits to no equivalent has a dignity.'  More than half a century after the adoption of the UNDHR, the characteristics of the bearer of 'universal' rights and dignity, still remain unclear.
The new book Enacting European Citizenship does a curious thing: it questions the very ownership of the idea of citizenship.
There is, of course, a continuing complex debate, not least within core EU institutions like the European Commission and the European Court of Justice, about how the legal status of European citizenship can be better known, more widely respected and more commonly acted upon. There is plenty in the book reflecting that debate and taking it further. My own chapter discusses the new European Citizens Initiative as an effort to encourage European citizens to activate their legal status, to be active European citizens.
Hindustan Unilever Ltd (HUL), a majority-owned subsidiary of Anglo-Dutch multinational Unilever, has left the town of Kodaikanal (Tamilnadu, India) tainted with mercury from its thermometer factory. In 2005 the company said it would clean up the factory site to a standard of 10mg of mercury per kilogram of soil: a Dutch soil quality standard for residential areas.
Ten of us on my programme at Columbia University are Jordanian. We share a common interest in social change and a belief that we can forge a better future for Jordan and the region – even if that belief is sometimes tested. Our Jordanian upbringings are varied, even though we grew up in the same country.
Globalization has contributed to the tendency to de-link the three basic units that used to compose citizenship: one’s ethnic origin or place of birth; nationality or bond to a nation state and the legal structure of rights and obligations. These three factors are disaggregated and re-arranged in new ways.
The road to the old factory is almost deserted. Perhaps this is because it is a sunny Saturday afternoon and few companies have opened their doors in this area of Poble Nou, in the south of Barcelona. The economic crisis probably has a great deal to do with it too. Street after street reveals industrial (and post-industrial) buildings with their blinds down, both in a real and metaphorical sense. Suddenly, as we approach the door of the factory (or la nave, as they call it), where we are supposed to meet Obama, one sees artisans’ carts of all types, pushed along by men and women. They seem to hide as if they are ashamed or scared of something, or of someone.
Around the world today, many hundreds of thousands of people – if not more – encounter difficulties affecting the rights that they enjoy as citizens of their state. Their situation is commonly described as one of “ineffective nationality” and it can have dire consequences.
During one of my visits to India I spent some time talking to people who were engaging with local processes of land acquisition for industrial development. I learned that local people took different positions on these processes.
Is being a man in the Arab world truly cause for celebration? Not if you happen to be a fourteen to twenty-four year old male in Amman, where it has become common practice to exclude young men from public and semi-public spaces.
I read with much interest Zahra’s recent blog ‘A critique of the Levantine women rights movements’ on the Oecumene website. I found myself agreeing with her over some aspects of her analysis; for example, she states that ‘there has been a generalized policy amongst dictators to allow some, albeit restricted, space for women’s movements in order to propagate the notion among domestic and international audiences of their regimes’ ‘acceptance’ of certain aspects of human rights’. There is little to disagree with here. Arabic governments continue to use ‘women’s rights issues’ as pawns in a chess game: on the one hand reducing domestic reform efforts to ‘token’ gestures that work towards increasing female ‘visibility’ in institutions like parliaments (arguably powerless to begin with), and on the other using such token reforms as bargaining chips in view of attracting funding from foreign donors.
Initiatives to achieve gender equality in access to citizenship, alongside accessing various levels of effective citizenship, have been at the forefront of advocacy movements worldwide for decades. The establishment of the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women in 1979, provided the motor for significant advancements on this front.
I was recently invited to give evidence before the Scottish Affairs Select Committee of the House of Commons. The Committee is conducting an inquiry into The Referendum on Separation for Scotland, and the evidence session on 5 September 2012 is available to view. The evidence session has also attracted some press coverage in the Herald (article and leader) which highlights the importance of the issue.
If you have a Google Alert set up with the key word ‘citizenship’ or ‘statelessness’ (i.e. absence of citizenship), you will have received a slightly unusual story in your inbox this summer. Between updates on the troubling plight of populations like the Bidoon in Kuwait and the Rohingya in Myanmar, a piece of news of a very different kind was grabbing attention on the internet: “Stateless African to compete under Olympic flag”.
This blogpost is a response to Alessandra Marino's article 'Occupy Movement in India', published on the OpenLearn website in June 2012 and on the Oecumene website in August 2012.
In September and October 2011, thousands of young people occupied the squares of New York, London, Madrid and other major cities across the globe. The waves of protests, including the indignados in Spain and the student demonstrations in Athens all involved claiming back iconic spaces of Western politics; squares being a modern designation of the Greek agora.
One morning in December 2011, I was sitting with more than one hundred people, many of who came from nearby villages. In the large hall, which many did not hesitate to call a ‘court’, we were waiting for the sole judge to appear.
I have always been resistant to working on “women’s issues”. This might seem odd, considering how much there is to do, but my resistance is well founded. Women, and their so-called “issues” keep being put into boxes. I do not like to be boxed and neither do most of the women I know.
‘Local instances, global claims: acts of writing and social movements’ was the theme of the third workshop in the Oecumene Symposium – Citizenship after Orientalism. The aim of the workshop was to explore how writing can be used as a tool for engaging and mobilizing people and in turn enhance social and political struggles across the globe.
What are the connections between the make-up of contemporary border regimes, their justification through orientalising discourses and the potential of citizenship as a political resource in migrants’ struggles against disenfranchisement and selective exclusion?
In December 2011 the world witnessed a momentous ministerial meeting organized by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva. This was deemed one of the most successful events aimed at raising the profile of the problem of statelessness.
UK government policy on overseas students has come back into the news recently.
'Growing together. The more we are, the stronger we are' is the title of a recent European Commission promotional video designed to send youngsters in member countries the message that unity is strength. Yet, it does so by showing an extremely orientalist version of the EU.
Twenty four participants took part in the workshop on ‘Performance and Political Subjectivity’ held on 9 February 2012 as part of Oecumene’s First Symposium.
Held on the last day of the Oecumene project's First Symposium, the workshop entitled 'Religious organisation and the political articulation of citizenship', explored many relevant and current issues concerning the involvement of religion in the public sphere. The workshop underscored the need for an inclusive cross-regional academic dialogue on this subject.
The workshop Sexual Democracy, Imperialism and Cultural Translation opened up a rich and intense exchange about sexuality, citizenship, political liberalism, orientalism and political subjectivity.
Academics, auditors, entrepreneurs, footballers, investors, journalists, lawyers and managers move as professionals through distinct but overlapping fields (of expertise, knowledge, and competence) that traverse national borders.
The decorations are up and the tree is full of colours. More than thirty children have adorned it with painted dried flowers and scraps of paper carrying their wishes for the future. The star does not appear on top, but hangs from one of the tallest branches of the small palm tree that was chosen as a Christmas insignia in the protest camp of Jobat.
With children gathering under the trees for their morning classes, a handful of men cooking food on the fire and other villagers farming in the fields behind the green tent in which I write, it is easy to forget that I am in the heart of a struggle. But I am.
When thinking about the Oecumene project, I reflect on what binds us together and what separates us in terms of our experiences of citizenship around the world. In my last blog, I wrote about the shared experience of statelessness, which has regrettably become a truly global case study for exploring how the absence of citizenship affects people. This time, I’d like to share some thoughts on another common or shared experience relating to citizenship, which caught my attention thanks to a recent decision of the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. It would seem that, whether we are perusing international legal standards or delving into the domestic citizenship law of any state picked at random, one notion emerges as a uniting principle: the best interests of the child.
With an estimated 1.9 to 3.8 million ‘illegal’ immigrants in the EU and continued evidence of official breaches of non-discrimination laws, it is reasonable to ask: What is ‘illegality” in this context. I will answer by looking at the concept of ‘illegality’ from a historical perspective, as an actively produced condition and as a stake.
State sovereignty in determining nationality legislation has led to a number of difficulties worldwide, including the lack safeguards against statelessness, and often discriminatory policies. In the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, a substantially apparent flaw in state citizenship legislation is gender discrimination. Women rarely possess the right to pass nationality on to their children or their spouse – and maternal affiliation can only be the case in extreme circumstances. This leaves the acquisition of citizenship dependent on the male figures in the family. Individuals who have often lived all their lives within the country of their mother - and cannot leave - are unable to acquire her nationality. This situation is not only impractical, it also leaves thousands of people at risk of being born stateless.
A week ago, I was breathlessly following news of the attack by hundreds of Egyptian people on the Israeli embassy in Cairo. This event – one of great popular rage – stemmed from both the long-term conflictual history of Egypt-Israel relations and short-term outrage over the killing of five Egyptian soldiers by the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) a few weeks ago.
Unlike Gypsies, Jews, Nubians, Bedouins, Shi'a or Baha'is in Egypt, Copts are not a small minority of citizens that live in a particular part of the country or use a different dialect. Copts represent, according to unofficial estimations, 10-15% of the total population in Egypt. The real number of Copts is known but treated as a military secret and is not disclosed.
At the heart of the exploration underway within the Oecumene project lies the concept of citizenship. Whether described in terms of membership or of participation, citizenship reflects some form of belonging, contributing to the drawing of dividing lines between ‘us’ and ‘them’.
Following decades of civil war, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 2005 provided southern Sudanese with the opportunity to exercise their right to self-determination by way of a referendum. In January 2011, voters overwhelmingly supported the call for secession from Sudan.
In the last years two photographers, Edu Leon and Olmo Calvo, have been developing a project called Fronteras invisibles or invisible borders. Despite increasing obstacles created by the police when taking pictures, this project is still active with the aim of exposing the reality of identity checks and police raids in Madrid (Spain). These controls are carried out to identify, arrest, and in some cases, imprison in detention centers all those ‘foreigners’ who, for whatever reason, lack the immigration documents.
With more than 150 paintings and sculptures, the Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung in Munich has just hosted one of the largest recent exhibitions on Orientalist art, organised jointly with the Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts, Brussels (where the event was on until 9 January 2011): “Orientalism in Europe: From Delacroix to Kandinsky”. Almost at the same time, the Musée d’Orsay in Paris dedicated an entire show to the contested work of the Orientalist painter Jean-Léon Gérôme, whose images of the desert had a relevant place in Munich as well.
As millions will have filled in the indomitable lilac census questionnaire in the UK we should ask ourselves what “tomorrow” are we helping to “shape”? The primary use of the Census is stated as assisting various levels of government to provide key services. It will also undoubtedly be a goldmine for other quantitative researchers.
For at least two centuries the origins of citizenship appeared European. It is essentially considered a Judeo-Christian development and it is juxtaposed against its ‘lack’ in Buddhism, Confucianism, Islam, and Hinduism (if one thinks along religious terms) or Asia, America and Africa (if one thinks along geographic terms).
Engin Isin explores the meaning of the word Oecumene and how it relates to the content of the project. The meaning of this classical Greek word is somehow ambiguous which makes it all the more interesting and challenging for our project.
Official multiculturalism has meant that we tolerate diversity so long as we can safely consume and/or inhabit it; so long as pleasure in difference continues without consequence to either the ‘majority’ values or marketable cultures.
Media frames are representations of reality. Their resemblance to reality is always partial. They emerge through institutionalised journalism practices that favour certain stories over others and influence the language and images used to describe events. 
In this podcast I introduce the Oecumene project and outline its broad aims. You can find a more detailed text podcast script attached if you would like to read rather than watch.
More may have been written about the explosion of politics in Arab worlds in the past two weeks than about 1848 in the last hundred and sixty years. I will leave proving this hypothesis to Google Books executives and their calculators who have developed a penchant for quantifying knowledge. If true, what does it say about the overaccumulation crisis of words? Do we say too much?
There is no image that symbolizes nationalism more poignantly than the flag. In this photograph I took in Toronto during the 2002 World Cup a number of fans were celebrating the victory of their ‘nation’. There has been so much discussion about whether nationality is an immutable identity or an identity that is internalized and enacted.
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