This panel invites papers that reflect intersectional inequalities, their multiple sources, practical manifestations and political consequences in relation to the questions of civil society and citizenship. While civil society is often considered as a space for struggling against inequalities, civic spaces are increasingly under attack and occupied by groups that promote inequality for instance in terms of ethnicity and gender. Moreover, processes of self-organization and mobilization may include mechanisms that reproduce inequalities through dynamics of inclusion and exclusion. Although universalist ideals of citizenship subscribe to equality, citizenship rights are often in practice realized in unequal ways. Inequalities can be considered among the main hindrances to the exercise of democracy, and among the reasons for the expanding support to authoritarianism also in formally democratic countries. These arguments invite intersectional, complex and contextual understanding of how inequalities emerge, are maintained and can be challenged. We invite both theoretical elaborations and empirical investigations of the ways in which disadvantages and privileges are at play when citizens organize and mobilize themselves in relation to the state, institutions, corporations, and other citizens. The panel seeks to produce a special issue for the Journal of Civil Society. Priority will be given to those participants, who will be able to present a full draft paper (max. 9,000 words). Abstracts (max. 200 words) should be emailed to all panel chairs.
Chaired by Tiina Kontinen (University of Jyväskylä), email@example.com, Eija Ranta (University of Helsinki), firstname.lastname@example.org, Henri Onodera (University of Tampere), email@example.com
Session 1, Room 309
Tiina Kontinen (University of Jyväskylä), Eija Ranta (University of Helsinki) and Henri Onodera (Tampere University)
Inequalities, Civil Society and Citizenship: Intersectionality and Complexity
This paper provides an initial introduction for the intended thematic issue. It sets the agenda for exploring intersectional inequalities, their multiple sources, practical manifestations and political consequences in relation to the questions of civil society and citizenship. While civil society is often considered as a space for struggling against inequalities, civic spaces are increasingly under attack and occupied by groups that promote inequality for instance in terms of ethnicity and gender. Moreover, processes of self-organization and mobilization may include mechanisms that reproduce inequalities through dynamics of inclusion and exclusion. Although universalist ideals of citizenship subscribe to equality, citizenship rights are often in practice realized in unequal ways. Inequalities can be considered among the main hindrances to the exercise of democracy, and among the reasons for the expanding support to authoritarianism also in formally democratic countries. These arguments invite intersectional, complex and contextual understanding of how inequalities emerge, are maintained and can be challenged. Further, elaborations of the ways in which disadvantages and privileges are at play when citizens organize and mobilize themselves in relation to the state, institutions, corporations, and other citizens. The presentation ends with proposal of practical next steps concerning the publication.
Karembe F. Ahimbisibwe (University of Jyväskylä)
Material embeddedness of local citizenship: (In)equality in NGO livelihood interventions for constrained citizens in rural Uganda
This article explores the material embeddedness first, of the conceptualization and construction of local citizenship, and second, in civil society livelihood interventions aimed at strengthening citizens against inequality and marginalization in developing countries. Drawing on recent literature on communitarian citizenship, the article argues for the need to pay attention to the primacy of material assets in civil society efforts aimed at addressing inequality in sub Saharan African contexts. Basing on empirical findings from participatory research with local community members in eastern Uganda, the article reveals material embeddedness of citizenship in a) local construction of citizenship, b) self-organising spaces, c) gendered relations, and d) NGO knowledge. The article then argues that this embeddedness shapes constrained citizen’s identity, belongingness, claims and everyday practices and thus has inclusionary and exclusionary implications for NGO’s citizenship livelihood interventions. The article concludes by reflecting on the urgency of material assets in building gradual individual (and community) citizens’ economic capacity. However, this may instead add more responsibility on and/or exclude the poor(est) thereby aggravating the existing social inequality.
Jimmy Spire Ssentongo (Uganda Martyrs University) and Henni Alava (University of Jyväskylä)
Anger, fear, despondence, cynicism, and hope: Citizenship moods in Museveni’s Uganda
This paper explores conflicting moods of citizenship in Uganda – a country led since 1986 by Yoweri Museveni, presently heading for yet another extension of his rule in the 2021 elections. It draws upon our research encounters in Eastern, Central and Northern Uganda, and from one author’s experience as an engaged social commentator in Uganda. Based on this experience, we tease out trends in the moods surrounding citizenship in contemporary Uganda, and consider the ways in which ethnic, regional and socioeconomic inequalities contribute to their emergence. Preliminarily, we characterize these citizenship moods as angry, disillusioned, cynical and hopeful; moods that are not mutually exclusive, but can coexist and fluctuate over time. Angry citizenship tends to take the form of rule-defying activism. At times, such citizenship even leads its proponents into life-endangering confrontations with the incumbent regime. Disillusioned citizenship refers to a pervasive feeling among many Ugandans, that despite one’s anger or disappointment, nothing can be done, and even if something was, nothing would fundamentally change. From this perspective, a sensible thing to do is to focus on the wellbeing of one’s home. We describe citizenship as cynical when people willingly participate or are co-opted in one way or another into the increasingly corrupt and destructive ruling regime. Finally, hopeful citizenship orients peoples’ attention simultaneously to work for the home, as well as to engage in civic action for change, in the hope that in the long run, this can contribute to improving Uganda for the better. As we will show, these different moods are to a considerable degree conditioned by differences of ethnicity and social class: people from certain social classes and ethnicities tend to see possibilities for change in different ways. Yet we also show how feelings of anger, cynicism, disillusionment or hope, which permeate peoples’ sense of citizenship can also cut across class, ethnic and regional divides, and coexist within individuals. Ultimately, our analysis of conflicting citizenship moods, set against analysis of trends in the growing political and socio-economic stratification of Uganda, seeks to explore what kind of politics can be envisioned to emerge from them.
Banhishikha Ghosh (University of Zurich)
Shifting Relationship between State, Civil Society and Gender Variant Communities in India
Though persons belonging to gender variant communities (GVC) in India are often misunderstood and considered ‘invisible’, there have been a lot of documents, reports, folk tales and writings on them since ancient times. Scholars have noted that the category of a ‘third sex’ had been a part of the Indian worldview for more than 3,000 years. But since the onset of the colonial rule, new modalities were introduced to identify and criminalise them. Surprisingly, even in Independent India, GVC members had to struggle for decades to claim citizenship rights though Indian Constitution allowed its citizens inalienable fundamental rights. In theory, GVC people were subject to the same kind of laws as others. Yet, in practice, the colonial legal framework was retained to ‘control’ and ‘punish’ them. By this, the Indian state has actively promoted inequality. Unexpectedly, the issues of GVC members were even ignored by the Indian civil society and NGOs until recently. More importantly, the amended legal framework in 2018 has re-inscribed the hegemonic power structures and ignored their diversity. This paper, based on field and documentary data, tries to uncover the shifting relationship between the state, civil society and gender variant individuals in the post-Independent India.
Yahia Benyamina (University of Oran)
Serving society: when civic activism becomes youth shelter from political, marginalization – a study around some young activist in Oran
Despite the fact that portrays young people marginalized and excluded from Algerian political sphere, however, those ones did not stop developing new patterns to penetrate politics and impose themselves as a distinct generation. This paper presents civic activism as a way works out by young people in this regard. By using data drawn from an ethnographic fieldwork and forty (40) semi-structured interviews with young activists in political parties; civil society organizations; and in social movements implanted in Oran (Algeria) since the end of 2017 and till the beginning of 2019, the article come to conclude that serving society through civic activism turned to be an area for contesting both systematic exclusion of young people from political process and as a way of generational renewal of politics. This is done by three mains strategies which are: entering politics through civil society, engaging towards civil society to strengthen the position in politics; and finally engaging in civil society to avoid politics.
Session 2, Room 312
Chinese environmental NGOs and the social representativeness of middle-class organizations
Chinese environmental NGOs (ENGOs) have grasped new opportunities for political agenda setting that civil society development promised to bring. New environmentalist voices now question growth-oriented economic policies and irresponsible consumerism. However, because ENGOs typically voice urban middle-class concerns, towards rural residents and migrants ENGOs often reproduce similar exclusions than the state’s modernization strategy. This is not a result of a conscious class conflict but of the invisibility of rural interests on ENGO agendas. Due to the omission of rural and migrant viewpoints, ENGO voice is not automatically socially positive or neutral but can produce socially negative outcomes. Although NGOs encourage voluntarism for their middle-class members, the implementation of NGO-promoted programs can force economic and social costs to farmers and migrant workers who are rendered invisible as stakeholders. The neglect of rural interests on ENGO agendas goes beyond the preference of middle-class concerns by the urbanites. It also derives from certain technologies of knowledge production that support ENGO activism and from civil society development relying on global ideals rather than local experiences. Classed omissions constrain active citizenship in China where hegemonic voices dominate the public sphere and where independent organizing is restricted especially among potentially discontented social strata.
Karim Maiche (Tampere University)
Nonviolent Acts of Citizenship: Cloning of the Autonomous Trade Unions in Algeria
Dozens of autonomous trade unions function in Algeria forming heterogeneous political body within dispersed opposition. Within these unions, activists defend workers’ rights through multiple organizational network that consist of human rights groups, civil society associations and political parties. This thesis explores how the citizenship demanded by these autonomous union activists are negotiated through nonviolent acts of citizenship in the public space. First, I will present generally the theoretical (acts of citizenship) and methodological (ethnographic fieldwork) framework of the study and how empirical research material was conducted. Secondly, I will concentrate on how the state authorities manage the non-violent societal protest and the challenge presented by these oppositional unions. State practices various methods, such as restrictions, arrests, negotiations and cloning, which means creating parallel double unions with same name and function through infiltration and internal contests. I will show through the interviews how the activists describe the cloning as a method practiced by the state and how the so-called clones function within public space distorting the societal contestation.
Jelena Vicentic (University of Belgrade)
‘Rebuilding the Unity’ – unequal activisms and the prospect of reclaiming the disarmament movement
In the last decade of the 20th century international coalitions of non-governmental organisations have emerged as increasingly significant global actors. The model of civil society joint action presented by the International Campaign to Ban Landmines that coordinated the efforts of hundreds of grassroots groups, citizens’ associations and non-governmental organisations towards the achievement of an international treaty banning anti-personnel landmines in 1997, is continuing to be celebrated as democratic intervention into global governance. As such, it has been transferred into the 21st century, replicated and applied in various fields of concern, including human rights, environmental protection and climate change. This paper explores the current crisis within this model of (self)organizing. In addition to presenting an examination of the role and outcomes of the networks’ performance and performativity, the paper analyses the roots of the current predicament through a decolonial lens. The application of decolonial approaches in addressing membership’s disillusionment could point in the direction of possible solutions for the crisis through transformative action.