«Enacting European Citizenship edited by Engin F. Isin and Michael Saward cambridge university press Cambridge, New York, Melbourne, Madrid, Cape ...»
Butler provides a more nuanced formulation of this principle of the right as a demand without prior authorisation or convention. Speaking with Spivak about protests by immigrants, especially the example of Hispanics in the US in 2006 singing the national anthem in Spanish, 38 Engin F. Isin Butler says, ‘I want to suggest to you that neither Agamben nor Arendt can quite theorize this particular act of singing, and that we have yet to develop the language we need to do so’ (Butler and Spivak 2007: 62).
Suggesting ‘that this is precisely the kind of performative contradiction that leads not to impasse but to forms of insurgency’, she emphasises that ‘the point is not simply to situate the song on the street, but to expose the street as the site for free assembly’. Although she says ‘the song can be understood not only as the expression of freedom or the longing for enfranchisement – though it is, clearly, both those things – but also [as a] restaging [of] the street, enacting freedom of assembly precisely when and where it is explicitly prohibited by law’ (Butler and Spivak 2007: 63).
The conclusion she draws from this is that ‘rights... exist doubly since there is, on the street and in the song, an exercise of the right to rights, and the ﬁrst of these rights is guaranteed by no law but belongs to the nature of equality which turns out to be not nature but a social condition’ (Butler and Spivak 2007: 65). What follows is that ‘[t]he call for that exercise of freedom that comes with citizenship is the exercise of that freedom in incipient form: it starts to take what it asks for. We have to understand the public exercise as enacting the freedom it posits, and positing what is not yet there. There’s a gap between the exercise and the freedom or the equality that is demanded that is its object, that is its goal’ (Butler and Spivak 2007: 68). There are two points to highlight here for enacting citizenship. Firstly, an act posits or articulates a right that is not yet there but which may exist elsewhere (e.g. in the concept of inequality). The issue here is that ‘there’ and ‘elsewhere’ underline the need to consider sites and scales of an enactment when we are interpreting it as a rupture.
Secondly, an act starts to take what it asks for. For there to be an act it must perform or enact its demand. These two points determine the acts as a rupture rather than merely being without authorisation and convention.
These two points about rupture reﬁne what makes an act: acts are not opinions but they produce events such as declarations, occupations, interventions and litigations. The nature of such acts is that they question
what is and is not ‘there’ and what is and is not ‘elsewhere’. Badiou (2006:
24) makes a strong point when he says that ‘the essence of politics is not the plurality of opinions. It is the prescription of a possibility in rupture with what exists’. We treat acts of citizenship as such prescriptions. But Badiou adds (2006: 24), and this is very important for us: ‘of course, the exercise or the rest of this prescription and the statements it commands – all of which is authorised by a faded event – goes by way of debates. But not exclusively. More important still are the declarations, interventions and organisations.’ What that means for us is that when acts perform as prescriptions, taking what they demand, producing declarations, Claiming European citizenship 39 interventions and organisations as events, they indicate the investments and commitments of subjects much stronger than their stated intentions or preferences.
But these declarations, interventions and organisations are not only enacted by subjects who have no part but also by states and other authorities, as claims and counter-claims. The boundaries between citizenship and non-citizenship are often blurred and contested. Mantu (2008: 19) demonstrates how in the UK, the grounds of deprivation of citizenship shifted within a few years from ‘grave concern for state security’ to it being ‘conducive to public good’. If enactment of citizenship asserts and extends rights and by doing so articulates questions about the relations of domination and emancipation that citizenship institutes, the investigation of acts raises three ambiguities and paradoxes: effects and consequences of acts, their intentions and purposes, and the responsibilities and answerabilities that they demand.
Effects and consequences Are acts of citizenship inherently (or always) exclusive or inclusive, homogenising or diversifying, positive or negative? Or do these meanings that we attribute to acts only arise after the fact? Following our investigations, it is difﬁcult to deﬁne acts of citizenship as already inherently exclusive or inclusive, homogenising or diversifying, or positive or negative. We have seen how states can enact laws to deprive citizens of their citizenship status, to regulate insiders, outsiders and aliens of the state. But, by so doing, they can also expose their powers and constitute these powers as sites of contestation. The effects and consequences arise after or, more appropriately, through the act. In fact, we as interpreters ascribe these qualities to those acts. When, for example, Latvian citizens enacted their European citizenship and used their rights to mobility, they also left behind families, dependencies and all the attendant problems associated with a lost generation (Baltruka et al. 2009: 22–23). So the ﬁrst paradox of acts is that even if they are explicitly staged to have certain effects (inclusion, diversity, tolerance), they may well produce counter-effects (exclusion, homogeneity, intolerance).
Intentions and purposes One of the ambiguous issues that arise when investigating acts is whether acts of citizenship can be enacted without an explicit motive, purpose or reason? Do those subjects that act as citizens, strangers, outsiders or aliens necessarily (or always) attribute reasons to their acts? Can the reasons that 40 Engin F. Isin they attribute be interpreted as the intention behind their acts? While it is important to know the reasons that subjects state as the intentions of their acts, it is vital to recognise that such stated reasons do not explain intentions. As Nietzsche thought, perhaps ‘the decisive value of an act lies precisely in its non-intentional quality – all that can be seen and known about it only belongs to its surface’ (quoted in Köhler 2002: 209). While acts of citizenship involve decisions, those decisions cannot be reduced to the calculability and intentionality of the subjects. Acts can be staged without subjects being able to fully articulate reasons for their enactment.
Acts of citizenship do not need to originate in the name of anything, though investigators will always interpret how acts of citizenship orient themselves toward justice. The second paradox of theorising acts of citizenship is to accept that subjects cannot always give an account of their acts, and yet we render their acts accountable by investigating them as acts.
Responsibilities and answerability Another paradox that emerges with acts is the relationship between responsibility and answerability. The law creates subjects of responsibility to obey the law. Do acts have to (always) obey the law? Are acts of citizenship only legitimate when they obey the law? The paradox is that acts of citizenship are not necessarily founded in law or responsibility. In fact, for acts of citizenship to be acts at all they often call the law into question and, sometimes, break it. Similarly, for acts of citizenship to be acts at all they call established forms of responsibilisation into question and, sometimes, disobey the law. To highlight this paradox we distinguish responsibility from answerability. Sometimes acts will disobey the law and the norm.
Those activist citizens that act are not a priori subjects recognised in law, but by enacting themselves through acts they affect the law that recognises them. The third paradox of theorising acts is to recognise that acts of citizenship do not need to be founded in law or enacted in the name of the law. The clearest examples of this can be drawn from Turkish acts of European citizenship. Often those Turkish citizens who litigated against the state in the ECtHR were branded as traitors and their acts were interpreted as treason (Isyar et al. 2009b: 32). Similarly, acts of conscientious objectors were branded as against the interests of the state and its security (Isyar et al.
2010). We can also argue that when Latvian citizens demanded same-sex rights, they were deliberately stating their right to claim rights, to which the Latvian parliament responded by amending the constitution in the opposite direction. The parliament perhaps understood that what was at stake here Claiming European citizenship 41 was as much the same-sex rights as the right to claim rights (Kruma et al.
¯ 2010: 20).
Acts constitute subjects, who claim rights and responsibilities, enact themselves as activist citizens and, in the process, differentiate others as those who are not (strangers, outsiders, aliens). Acts of citizenship are those acts through which citizens, strangers, outsiders and aliens emerge not as subjects already deﬁned, but as ways of being with others. We have considered acts of citizenship as political insofar as these acts constitute constituents (subjects with claims). But they are also ethical (e.g. answerable and responsible), cultural (e.g. carnivalesque), sexual (e.g. pleasurable) and social (e.g. afﬁliation, solidarity, hostility) as acts that actualise or perform ways of becoming political subjects. We can deﬁne acts of citizenship as those acts that transform forms (orientations, strategies, technologies) and modes (citizens, strangers, outsiders, aliens) of being political by bringing into being new subjects as activist citizens (claimants of rights) through creating or transforming sites and stretching scales.
Active and activist European citizens A relational conception of citizenship instituted through struggles for rights by subjects through scales and sites deﬁned only in reference to these struggles and subjectivities enables us to approach citizenship as an enactment. To recognise that citizenship is in ﬂux is not to lament its relational structure but to theorise in order to account for its dynamism.
European citizenship as enactment of political subjectivity shifts our attention from arrangements to enactments. It also shifts our attention from already deﬁned subjects to the acts that constitute them.
This chapter concludes with a distinction between ‘active citizens’ and ‘activist citizens’. There was an allusion throughout this chapter to active citizens as those that follow already existing scripts of conduct. By contrast, ‘activist citizens’ are not deﬁned in advance but emerge through acts of citizenship. Voting, taxpaying and serving in the military are already scripted acts. We have given the impression that ‘active citizens’ merely perform these scripts. By contrast, we have given the impression that activist citizens engage in writing scripts. This distinction is very close to the one Balibar (2004: 49–50) made, though he still uses the term ‘active citizen’. He opposes two conceptions of citizenship that are very close to what we named as ‘active’ and ‘activist’ conceptions of citizenship. For Balibar ‘[active citizenship] is both authorization and abstract. It can claim to advance objectives of social transformation and equality, but in the ﬁnal analysis it always limits itself to the statist axiom, “the law is the law,” which presumes the omniscience of the administration and the 42 Engin F. Isin illegitimacy of conﬂict’ (2004: 49). In other words, active citizenship functions as a script for already existing citizens to follow already existing paths. It is most often used to denote the kinds of behaviour that citizens ostensibly follow. Thus, it is always tied into governmental practices through which conduct is produced. It is the conduct of those who are already considered as citizens and whose conduct is juxtaposed against those who are not. This chapter opened with a brief discussion of the ﬁrstever EU citizenship report (EC 2010). Let us return to it brieﬂy to elaborate upon our disappointment with it. As mentioned, the gist of its argument is that EU citizens as consumers, workers, professionals, students and political actors experience various obstacles to the enjoyment of the rights they already have. The Commission has identiﬁed twenty-ﬁve main obstacles that ‘citizens may confront throughout their lives based on their complaints’ (EC 2010: 5). The report documents various such obstacles experienced by citizens in those speciﬁc subject positions. It reveals that as individuals they experience difﬁculties over property rights, civil status documents, legal protection, taxation problems (especially in registering cars), access to health-care and consular protection when visiting third countries. As consumers, they experience difﬁculties as passengers and tourists and as residents and students. As professionals, EU citizens experience burdensome and uncertain procedures for recognition of academic diplomas and professional qualiﬁcations. As political actors, the report documents that while ‘EU citizens who live in a Member State other than their own have the right to vote and stand as candidates in European Parliament elections[,] some Member States appear not to adequately inform EU citizens about this right’ (EC 2010: 17). The report also notes that citizens do not have easy access to information about their rights (EC 2010: 19).
To remove these obstacles and guarantee the exercise of rights, the Commission proposes twenty-ﬁve solutions. These range from ‘proposing the designation of 2013 as the European Year of Citizens and...
organizing targeted events on EU citizenship and citizen-related EU policies during this Year’ (EC 2010: 21), to ‘asking Member States to ensure that voting rights of EU citizens in their Member State of residence are fully enforced, [so] that EU citizens can be members of or found political parties in the Member State of residence and that Member States duly inform EU citizens of their electoral rights’ (EC 2010: 18).