Understandings and practices of citizenship in marginalised settings
: a participatory and comparative study in England and Nicaragua

  • Jo Howard

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Abstract

Citizenship is premised on universal rights, yet experienced by some citizens as differentiated or conditional, risking their further marginalisation. Deeper understanding of these dynamics can generate insights for inclusive policymaking. This research studies how citizens living in marginalised settings in Nicaragua and England, experience their citizenship. It considers i) how the state constructs and operationalises citizenship; ii) how people in marginalised neighbourhoods experience or contest their citizenship; iii) the dynamics which shape their subjective understandings and practices of citizenship. The analytical approach combines neoliberal governmentality (focusing on discourses and spaces), with additional emphasis on agency. The methodology adopted an innovative approach to comparative research, combining macro-level documentary analysis and key informant interviews, with a micro-level form of cooperative inquiry rooted in participatory and action research traditions. The latter involved participatory visual methods including digital storytelling in a process of individual and collective reflection to generate and interpret data within and between sites. This approach has yielded insights for understanding how ideas and experiences of citizenship are shaped both by government discourses and spaces, and by citizens’ own subjectivities.
The international dimension highlights how a neoliberal governmentality approach can explain the power of government discourses and spaces to shape conditional and moralised forms of citizenship in both neoliberal and hybrid social policy contexts. The digital stories illuminate how in both contexts, experiences of citizenship are informed by subjective experiences of marginalisation which are identity-based as well as socio-economic, political and civic. For participants, government spaces for ‘active citizenship’ are often experienced as inaccessible, or manipulated. The research also highlights factors which can generate citizen subjectivity and agency: opportunities to rebuild personal capacity; opportunities to build relational agency; and access to alternative discourses and spaces in which they may become aware of dissonances between prevailing discourses, norms, and their own realities.
Date of Award25 Jun 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorSarah A Ayres (Supervisor) & Patricia A Kennett (Supervisor)

Keywords

  • citizenship
  • marginalisation
  • agency
  • subjectivities
  • neoliberal governmentality
  • discourse
  • participatory action research
  • digital storytelling
  • England
  • Nicaragua

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