Citizenship refers to particular ways of being situated within and responding to relations of power through which a community is governed or ruled. It involves claiming, exercising, and contesting rights, entitlements, and obligations (e.g., rights to vote and strike, the obligation to pay taxes) and diverse ways of engaging with the institutions (such as the state) and relations through which communities are constituted and governed. Citizenship has many geographical implications – determining where we can and cannot live, what rights we can claim in particular places and spaces of life, what obligations we are encouraged to fulfill, and the extent to which we can or cannot influence the regimes of power to which we are subjected in particular places and nations.

Geographers' interests in citizenship date back to the classical writings of thinkers such as Strabo and Ptolemy. However, it has only been since the 1970s, with the rise of radical and feminist geography, that geographers have given more sustained critical attention to citizenship as a sociocultural and political–economic phenomenon. Prior to this, political geographers tended to study citizenship tangentially, examining particular spatial manifestations of it such as voting patterns, voting districts, or national borders. Radical, feminist, and critical social geographers, in contrast, have sought to understand citizenship as complex, geographically uneven ways of engaging with relations of power through which particular communities are governed – engagements that occur both in and outside the state. Far from being universal, access to citizenship was increasingly seen as socially and geographically uneven; reflecting how diverse people were located as more and less entitled and marginalized members of real and imagined communities constituted at a range of geographic scales. This article discusses this more recent body of social geographic scholarship. Radical Social Geographic Perspectives on


The rise of radical political economic inquiry in human geography, during the 1970s and 1980s, was associated with growing attention to issues of social justice and to how different groups were situated within relations of power in capitalist society and space – particularly in terms of differences in class locations. Geographers were also increasingly concerned with the capitalist state and civil society as terrains of power contested by different groups of citizens. Fincher, for example, examined struggles over urban renewal schemes in Boston which would attract corporate capital but also displace low income residents.

As early issues of Antipode indicate, radical geographers were concerned with a wide range of topics related to citizenship. While relatively few articles explicitly discussed citizenship per se, topics relating to relations, experiences, and practices of citizenship included: advocacy in planning, neocolonial relations of power ghettoizing poor people of color in the slums and barrios of First and Third World cities, racist violence in response to school desegregation and busing in cities such as Boston, and 'socialist citizenship' in academic geography. In such various ways radical geographers helped to put issues of power, oppression, and marginalization in society and space associated with differences in income and class location, gender, race, and even ways of practicing human geography, on the geographic agenda. Further, by beginning to explore how geographic research could be used to promote social justice, radical geographers helped to encourage new visions of the roles that geographers could play in not only understanding the world but helping to change it. Feminist and critical social geographers continue to build upon these legacies to help advance our understanding of how and why so many citizens continue to be denied rights and entitlements in the neoliberal societies of the early twenty first century.

Feminist Contributions to Rethinking Geographies of Citizenship

From the 1970s onward, the second wave feminist movement, and the rise of 'New Left' scholarship and activism, helped to inspire feminist scholars to unsettle prevailing ways of understanding the state, relations of ruling, and citizenship. During the 1970s and 1980s, feminist scholars challenged 'gender neutral' conceptions of the state – helping to reveal how gender relations oppressive to women were reproduced through state rule. Catherine MacKinnon, for example, used a radical feminist conception of the state as perpetuating patriarchal forms of oppression to help explain why it was that female rape victims were 'revictimized' within Western judicial systems through court proceedings which closely scrutinized their past sexual histories. Carole Pateman challenged prevailing conceptions of citizenship as based on universal contractual relationships, arguing for greater attention to the sexual contract through which women's patriarchal subordination to men was secured (e.g., marriage). What feminist critiques of the state and relations of ruling did was to bring apparently 'private' matters, such as the sexual subordination of women by men, into the public sphere of the state and citizenship. Gender, class, and other differences such as ethnicity and race were, it was argued, critical in determining which citizens were more or less empowered through the state and its relations of ruling. Feminists were also concerned with critically assessing the extent to which two decades of feminist struggles in and against the state, around issues such as women's health, child care, and gender discrimination in employment, were translating into laws, policies, and implementation practices that made empowering differences in women's lives. For example, challenges in negotiating relationships between nongovernmental feminist organizations and 'femocrats' in the Australian state bureaucracy and in promoting affirmative action through the state were among the topics tackled in a book aptly entitled Playing the state. A key question in such state centered analyses was whether and if so how feminist activism was pushing the local state in directions which began to undermine gender relations of power in capitalist societies.

Feminist geographers began to rethink relations and practices of citizenship during the 1980s through studies examining the role of the capitalist state and classed and gendered relations of ruling in perpetuating women's subordinate position in society and space. Early work focused on the role of the state and planning processes in reproducing gender relations and sociospatial divisions of labor oppressive to women. Bowlby, for example, examined how post war planning practices in Britain gave rise to suburban environments designed to reproduce women's domestic roles in the home. As in the wider feminist literature, the state was recognized as a critical site of struggle over policies and practices shaping women's lives in areas such as employment equity, the provision of services such as daycare and public transportation, the availability of welfare supports, and planning the environments that women would live in. Much of this work was socialist–feminist in orientation, treating gender and class relations as pivotal, intertwined relations of power involved in reproducing capitalist societies and ways and places of life.

The 1990s saw feminist geographers engage in more explicit ways with questions about the relations and practices of citizenship in which women (and men) were engaged and the socially and spatially complex ways in which struggles over rights unfold in late capitalist societies. Feminist geographers made very important contributions to rethinking citizenship as a gendered set of relations and practices by challenging traditional conceptions of political acts as occurring exclusively in for mal political spaces (such as state legislatures) pointing out not only that private spaces such as the home may serve as important spaces for political organizing amongst women, but also that women's political acts often blur the boundaries between the private and public and challenge assumptions about formal and informal politics. Feminist geographers helped to demonstrate that many women, denied full access to formal political spaces of life, have to be creative in making spaces for political action by, for example, making public what is usually private – through collective displays of individual grief at the disappearance and death of their children at the hands of an oppressive political regime in the case of the Madras (Mothers) of La Plaza de Mayo in Argentina for instance. Political actions may cross private and public boundaries, do not always involve direct engagement with the state, and may have effects that are private, public, or both. By thinking about gendered political acts in this broader, more spatially fluid way we can also appreciate that citizenship is much broader than formal political activities such as voting.

As the 1990s progressed, feminist geographers increasingly turned their attention toward what Kobayashi termed processes of differencing in society and space – which enabled and empowered some citizens and disempowered citizen and noncitizen 'others'. Feminist geographers began to explore how multiple other embodied differences, in addition to gender and class, empowered some and disempowered others. Growing concern with how a multiplicity of differences situated people in relation to rights of citizenship was associated, in and outside geography, with a shift away from statecentered analyses of the forces shaping citizens' lives. Increasingly, feminist geographers understood citizenship as played out through multiple differences that situated diverse people in relation to regimes of power in civil society and the state, and in informal and private, as well as formal public spaces of political activity. Sexual citizenship, for example, was an important topic placed on the feminist geographic agenda during the 1990s. Valentine's early work examined how spaces such as urban streets are coded as for those with heterosexual identities and how this helped to marginalize those with nonheterosexual identities and ways of taking up space. Building on such work, Bell examined what he termed the spaces of sexual citizenship: ''y those locations where a citizenship is constituted through the citizen's sexualityy.'' He argued, using a case in which male same sex sadomasochism was actively disciplined through the British state and legal system, that such disciplinary regimes construct those with such dissident sexualities as citizen perverts. Geographers continue to be interested in sexually dissident forms of citizenship, as for example, Kitchin and Lysaght's work on sociospatial forces shaping sexual citizenship in Belfast, Northern Ireland, indicates.

Feminist geographers have also, in recent years, made important contributions to rethinking relations and practices of citizenship in transnational and postcolonial ways.

Fenster has examined how Israeli planning policies which have failed to respect differences between Ethopian immigrants and other Israeli citizens have led to the denial of citizenship rights for this group, for example, the right to a living space which accommodates extended family living arrangements. Kofman has examined the impacts of a multiplicity of political jurisdictions within the European Union on the status of groups such as migrant laborers, women immigrants, and refugees – showing how groups often constructed as 'outsiders' within civil society are marginalized in terms of abilities to claim full rights and entitlements of citizenship. More recently she has examined how Western European states have responded to migration pressures and concerns regarding social cohesion and national security by developing increasingly stratified systems of managing access to rights of citizenship and of promoting loyalty to nation states and prevailing ways of life. She shows how such post 9/11 managerial regimes place a growing emphasis upon the obligations of citizenship (e.g., respect for the rule of law, tolerance toward others, loyalty to the nation state).

As feminist geographers are helping to show, understanding how diverse people are situated in relation to rights, practices, and spaces of citizenship requires close attention to processes of inclusion and exclusion, differ encing and oppression, which cross cut transnational, national, local, and personal scales. Pratt, for example, shows how the denial of immigrant status to female Filipino domestic workers in Vancouver, and their consequent dependence upon continued employment in order to maintain residence in Canada, leaves them vulnerable to employer practices which deny fundamental human rights such as the right to privacy. As authors such as Anderson stress, in a transnational, in creasingly mobile world it is important that we look beyond processes of oppression and exclusion/inclusion such as racism to consider as well how discourses around 'belonging' (constructions of migrants for instance as 'outsiders') shape diverse people's capacities to claim and exercise citizenship.

Feminist geographers' efforts to advance our understanding of differential access to citizenship as the outcome of transnational processes such as managing migration have been complemented by research which draws on postcolonial theories. McEwan's work on gendered forms of citizenship and democratization in postapartheid South Africa stresses the importance of developing non Westernized conceptions of diverse women's citizenship. She discusses how black women in customary marriages in South Africa are denied fundamental rights of citizenship to an extent not found in Western nations – rights to inherit property or to engage in any political action in public spaces of life for instance – as a result of deeply entrenched, traditional structures of patriarchal authority. She calls for greater attention to how such women develop alternative forms and spaces of citizenship – for example, developing self help groups in the private sphere of the home in their struggle against domestic violence. Nelson has examined the local through global forces shaping how indigenous women in Cheran, Mexico, have struggled to redefine their roles as citizens and to break free of colonial, Catholic legacies which constructed women as not belonging in the public sphere. She details how women's struggles to establish markets for selling embroidery in other locales, struggles prompted by the declining viability of traditional subsistence practices with globalization, combined with men's and women's struggles in the late 1980s for more democratic local governance, to break down gendered barriers to women's political engagement and voice within the public sphere.

Feminist geographic research is clearly advancing our understanding of citizenship as a complex, contested sociospatial process. By exploring how relations and practices of citizenship develop within the context of a multiplicity of differences between and among women and men, and by insisting that ways of engaging in citizenship are far more complex than traditional conceptions of political action in formal political and public spaces allow, feminist geographers have shown how access to and engagement in citizenship is contested not only in relation to the state but in our homes and communities. Further they have helped us to understand differential access to and engagement in citizenship as the outcome of struggles that unfold across spatial scales that range from the intimately personal to the transnational.

Challenging Neoliberal Visions of Citizenship: Critical Social Geographic Perspectives

The rise of the New Right in nations such as the United States and Britain during the 1980s, with its neoliberal visions of citizenship as the freedom to pursue wealth through the unfettered operations of the market and its associated attacks on welfare state intervention, challenged New Left visions of citizenship as involving collective efforts to diminish structural inequalities in society. In geography, as in other disciplines, this challenge provided an important impetus to critical social and feminist analyses of citizenship formation as the socially and spatially uneven outcome of struggles over de jure and de facto rights and opportunities to participate in society. Influenced as well by the so called 'cultural turn' in geography and other disciplines, critical social geographies of citizenship emphasized not only the political–economic, but also the social and cultural relationships and practices of power in which citizens are enmeshed in particular places. As in feminist geographies of citizenship, this has encouraged closer attention to how differential access to and experiences of citizenship in specific places are the outcome of processes which are simultaneously imagined and real – as much the product of discourses and imaginings about who belongs and who doesn't as of the material consequences of class, gender, and other divisions of power intrinsic to capitalist societies.

An important theme in critical social geographic accounts of citizenship has been the critique of neoliberal and neoconservative policies and discourses aimed at promoting forms of social citizenship stressing obligations and responsibilities as opposed to entitlements to rights and to full participation in society. Fyfe, for example, has critically assessed the impacts of 'law and order' policies in Britain on citizenship practices, noting how an emphasis on active citizenship as individual obligations to assist in areas such as crime prevention and policing have eroded conceptions and practices of citizenship as entitlement to rights. When combined with legislation such as the Public Order Act, an act which emphasized individual rights to the enjoyment and use of public space, as well as private property, over collective rights to freedom of assembly, the neoliberal state has actively promoted the devolution of obligations to individual citizens and an erosion of collective entitlements of citizenship. Kearns has shown how the active citizenship being promoted by the Conservative government from the late 1980s in Britain involved a shift away from more collectivist approaches to welfare provision toward an elitist mode of governance through which individual citizens were morally pressured to assume responsibility for assisting others through the voluntary sector.

In addition to critically assessing transformations in relations and practices of citizenship associated with New Right policies and legislation, critical social geographers have examined spaces of and possibilities for resistance to neoliberal individualized, consumerist forms of citizenship. Pile has examined struggles to democratize local development processes in the London Docklands through a coalition of tenants' associations which insisted on people led forms of development. While not framing their struggles in the language of citizenship, this coalition was able to empower local residents in the development process thus challenging individualized and consumerist forms of participation promoted by the London Docklands Development Corporation. Brown has examined the multiple spaces of activism which developed in response to the AIDS crisis in Vancouver arguing that responses amongst activists within civil society both helped to open up spaces of radical democratic citizenship – for example, through a buddy system which challenged the alienation of those with AIDS from their biological families and the state – and closed other opportunities down when voluntary organizations providing services became increasingly subject to state regulation.

Critical social geographers have, like feminist geographers, stressed the complex spatiality of how rights and entitlements of citizenship are assigned and contested, showing that these processes unfold within multiple spaces of daily life and across multiple spatial scales. Blomley and Pratt have discussed the geographically uneven ways in which rights are assigned and contested in Canadian society and space. They note, for example, the importance of divisions between private and public space in determining the sorts of rights claims that can be made – how, for example, workers' rights to strike and picket have been deemed private rights and thus not protected constitutionally through the entitlements of citizenship laid out in Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. They also point out how the bundle of rights recognized in particular spaces and places of life are subject to contestation; as for example, when residents in central city areas undergoing gentrification, such as Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, challenge individualized conceptions of rights to property with more collectivist visions of belonging to community and having a 'right to stay' in the face of displacement pressures. Struggles for entitlements to rights also unfold across geographic scales: when domestic workers use transnational networks and discourses of human rights to press rights claims for instance.

Getting Global: Thinking Transnationally about Citizenship

In an increasingly transnational, global world, advancing our understanding of the political–economic and cultural forces shaping migrant rights has been an important aim of recent critical social geographies of citizenship. Leitner traces how Western European nation states have adjusted their responses to international migration pressures in accord with both changing economic needs (e.g., fluctuating levels of need for foreign workers within domestic labor markets) and processes of cultural representation. She notes how migration pressures from Eastern Europe and the developing world have been portrayed as threatening national cultures and ways of life (e.g., as 'hordes' descending upon a nation state and society). Particular conceptions of what it means to belong to the nation are, she shows, at work at limiting who has access to citizenship and the degree to which certain rights such as voting can be claimed. Kofman has, similarly, stressed the ways in which citizenship in Western European cities is being extended to some and denied to migrant 'others'.

Focusing on the globalization of labor markets, specifically on the export of labor from the Philippines and the import of labor to Japan, Ball and Piper have drawn attention to how nation states at both ends of the migration chain are failing to protect the human rights of workers. On the one hand, the Philippine nation state has embraced neoliberal modes of regulation which devolve the responsibility for rights and welfare from the state to the individual workers and employers. On the other hand, and despite a structural dependence on migrant labor in some sectors of the labor market, the Japanese nation state has strictly enforced noncitizenship status and minimal labor rights for migrants working within its borders.

Mountz's analysis of state responses to human smuggling across Canadian borders provides another interesting example of a critical social geographic account of the complex political–economic and cultural forces shaping the regulation of international migration and the rights afforded to those who enter a nation illegally. Focusing on a very controversial 1999 smuggled entry of migrants to the West coast of Canada, she argues for more embodied approaches to understanding how states respond to illegal migrants – which attend to how state power is enacted and experienced both by staff responsible for assessing refugee claims and handling media reports (which in this case represented the state as 'losing control' over its borders) and by illegal migrants detained for assessment and possible deportation purposes. She notes the importance of examining cultural representations of migrant bodies – in this case images of those bodies as threatening national borders, sovereignty, and existing immigration and refugee policies and procedures. Her work helps to remind us that state responses to challenges to existing ways of regulating access to citizenship and residency rights in particular places are more uneven, contradictory, and contested than unified views of state policies and procedures allow.

Looking Ahead: Toward New Geographies of Citizenship?

Over the past two decades, feminist and critical social geographers have increasingly turned their attention to processes of citizenship formation – processes that unfold in private and public spaces of life, and across personal, local, regional, transnational, and global scales. By attending to complex processes of differencing, they have helped to keep questions of inclusion and exclusion, empowerment, and marginalization at the forefront of geographic analyses of citizenship. Further, by demonstrating how socially and spatially uneven access to citizenship and human rights is they have challenged us to imagine futures in which all of our rights matter and are realized in practice.

What are some of the challenges that remain in advancing feminist and critical social geographic accounts of citizenship formation in society and space? One is expanding the range of processes of differencing considered in our explanations of the forces shaping relations and practices of citizenship in place. Processes of disablement, for example, play a critical role in disentitling people with mental and physical impairments to rights of citizenship in practice and yet disabling forms of citizenship have received very little attention in the geographic literature. At a time of US led war in the Middle East and of racial profiling, surveillance and detention of suspected terrorists in the US and allied countries such as Canada and Britain, there is also a need to better understand the extent to which basic human rights are being extended to groups such as detainees. As Nagel and Staeheli's work on Arab American ways of asserting claims to citizenship in the United States suggests, there is also a need to better understand how particularly marginalized groups of citizens are struggling to assert the legitimacy of their citizenship claims.

There is also a pressing need to consider the kinds of citizenship practices that can promote a more just, sustainable, and less imperialistic, militaristic world. On the latter, Mohanty challenges feminists, in particular, to grapple with how our teaching and scholarship may be complicit in the transnational US project of imperialistic, militaristic empire building. She argues:

If the racialized, gendered, heterosexual figure of the citizen patriot, the risky immigrant, the sexualized and de masculinized external enemy and potential domestic terrorist are all narratives and state practices mobilized in the service of empire, an appropriate question to ask is whether and how the academy and the academic disciplines y are involved in contesting or buttressing these practices. (Mohanty, 2006)

She asks us, in short, to critically assess the projects of citizenship formation in which we are engaged and to develop radical practices of resistance which challenge oppressive relations and practices of empire.

Geographers have done much to transform our understanding of the processes through which the relations, rights, and practices of citizenship are developed and contested in society and space. Will we also succeed in putting that knowledge into radical practices capable of forging a less divided, more inclusive, and just world? That is probably 'the' most important question facing all of us in the twenty first century.