Due to a series of transformations, 'traditional' conceptions and studies of citizenship are subjected to critical reappraisals. Anthropology offers new avenues to provide empirically based analysis of, explore understudied dimensions of, and contribute to a renewed theorisation on, citizenship.
Due to social and political transformations (such as the growing cultural diversity of European societies, the creation of a European citizenship, and contemporary changes in public policy making), traditional conceptions of citizenship, linked to the nation state, are subjected to many critical reappraisals, and anthropology offers new avenues to provide empirically based analysis, explore understudied dimensions of citizenship, and contribute to a renewed theorisation on the subject. The cultural diversity of most European societies, together with the creation of a European citizenship, have given a new momentum to debates about the relations between citizenship and identity. But if the cultural bias underlying even the most openly universalistic conceptions of citizenship can be exposed, does that imply that the notion of citizenship itself is cultural? While theories of citizenship tend to present it as a universal and universally valid notion, one realises there are as many conceptions of citizenship as there are political histories and cultures. How can anthropologists contribute to a further understanding of the variety of social and political representations of citizenship, as a socially and politically built, and thus arbitrary, notion? What are the historical, social and political configurations, and agents, producing different and competing types of citizens and citizenry? The variety of ideological representations carried by such conceptions can be fruitfully explored by analysing public policies and governmental discourses. By proposing, supporting or constraining different types of attitudes among citizens, governmental agencies potentially construe new or different types of political subjects. How are the citizens defined, what attitudes are rewarded or excluded, and how do these policies contribute to the validation of new sets of practices and the disqualification of others?