October 11, 2007
The Culture of Citizenship
Boalt Hall's Leti Volpp's The Culture of Citizenship appears at 8 Theoretical Inquiries 571 (2007) A copy is available from SSRN. Here's the abstract to a paper that should challenge multicultualists to rethink their proposed solutions to "culture wars."
The headscarf debate in France exemplifies what is widely perceived as the battle between a culture-free citizenship and a culturally-laden other. This battle, however, presumes the existence of a neutral state that must either tolerate or ban particular cultural differences. In this Article, I challenge that presumption by demonstrating how both cultural difference and citizenship are imagined and produced. The citizen is assumed to be modern and motivated by reason; the cultural other is assumed to be traditional and motivated by culture. Yet citizenship is both a cultural and an anti-cultural institution. Citizenship positions itself as oppositional to culture, even as it is constituted by cultural values. Recent scholars of multiculturalism have turned to concepts of citizenship as a solution to the dilemma raised by conflicts over culture. But these concepts of citizenship, namely deliberative democracy and civic participation, replicate the presumption of a culture-less "citizenship" - and thus form an ironic choice of solution to the problem of cultural difference.
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