RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2016


348 Researching citizenship through actor-centered approaches (1)
Convenor(s) Marta Bivand Erdal (Peace Research Institute Oslo, Norway)
Cathrine Brun (Oxford Brookes University, UK)
Chair(s) Cathrine Brun (Oxford Brookes University, UK)
Timetable Friday 02 September 2016, Session 3 (14:40 - 16:20)
Session abstract This session focuses on actor-centered methods for researching citizenship. Citizenship studies may be described as a mature area of study, including numerous contributions from political, social and cultural geography. Methods range from large scale quantitative data analysis, surveys, discourse analysis of media and political texts, to actor-centered qualitative approaches. This session invites contributions drawing on the latter. Studying citizenship is often based on settings where citizenship is under scrutiny, questioned and ambiguous. But citizenship may also be studied in settings where it is not questioned, and rather taken for granted. How do we capture how citizenship is being understood and practiced may differ widely in different contexts. This session invites papers which concern themselves with the methodological dimensions of how to research citizenship, in productive and meaningful, critical, but also applicable, ways. We encourage papers that deal with researching citizenship in relation to its many dimensions (active, formal, rights, duties, participation, membership), and conceptions (ethno-national, civic, republican, de-territorialised, grounded, as state tool, or in everyday life). Papers could discuss methodological experiences from across the globe, at scales from the local, urban, national, international or to the universal. We welcome papers that engage with research at the interface of academic research and activism, policy or practice. In particular we are interested in methodologies that are unconventional, innovative and aim to unpack taken-for-granted understandings of citizenship.

Linked Sessions Researching citizenship through actor-centered approaches (2)
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details: AC2016@rgs.org
Religious Transnationalism: The Case of Pentecostal Jamaican and Haitian Networks in Birmingham and French Guiana
Clara Rachel Eybalin Casseus (King’s College London, UK)
This paper seeks to extend scholarship rethinking active citizenship through the lens of religious transnationalism. I suggest that if common interests can feed a multiplicity of belongings fuelled by religious capital, it begs the question of how religious transnationalism differentiates itself in terms of citizenship. The article draws upon transnational citizenship as theoretical framework and is based on multi-sited field research of two populations of Jamaican and Haitian origin in Birmingham and French Guiana. Birmingham, one of the UK's leading multicultural city and French Guiana, after seventy years of départementalisation (1946-2016) offer a unique context to bring into focus an interesting dynamic process by which Jamaicans and Haitians negotiate their citizenship/non-citizenship and organize their networks to contribute to an extraterritorial space that feeds long-distance civic engagement in relation to their homeland (Jamaica and Haiti).
Birthplace, Bloodline and Beyond: How 'Liberian Citizenship' Is Currently Constructed in Liberia and Abroad
Robtel Neajai Pailey (University of Oxford, UK)
This paper interrogates whether or not an 'authentic' Liberian citizen actually exists based on multi-sited fieldwork conducted between June 2012 and July 2013. Using actor-oriented analysis as my theoretical framework, I examine the interfaces between 202 Liberian respondents – namely , homeland Liberians in Monrovia, Liberia's capital Liberian diasporas in London, Washington, Freetown, and Accra; permanent and circular returnees executive and legislative members of government, including the four sponsors of Liberia's 2008 proposed dual citizenship bill – showing that their conceptualisations of 'Liberian citizenship' differ according to their lived experiences and social locations, and ultimately influence participation or lack thereof , in post-war recovery. I argue that contemporary constructions of 'Liberian citizenship' transcend the legal definition enshrined in the country's 1973 Aliens and Nationality Law—moving from passive, identity-based. I use inverted commas to encase the term 'Liberian citizenship' throughout this paper because it refers to the constantly shifting conceptualisations and practices of citizenship over space and time. Citizenship, in my analysis, is not only a bundle of rights and privileges embedded in constructions of legal, national and cultural identity, but it is also a set of practices and interactions embodied in the life-worlds of respondents in Liberia and across transnational spaces.

Researching refugees' experiences of unsettled citizenship in Latin America: A multi-sited mixed-method approach
Marcia Vera Espinoza (The University of Sheffield, UK)
The paper aims to reflect on the use of semi-structured interviews and participant observation as part of a mixed-methods design in order to explore the citizenship experiences of Colombian and Palestinian refugees in Chile and Brazil. This actor-centred approach aimed to analyse the relevance of citizenship status, practices and acts (Isin, 2008) in refugees' experiences of resettlement in both Latin American countries. The research design was multi-sited, including different sites and scales of analysis. The research did not only study two countries, 15 cities and a range of localities; it also considered different actors, including interviews with refugees and with other actors involved in citizenship practices, such as government officers and policy makers. The use of participant observation enhanced, contrasted and sometimes challenged the data obtained by the semi-structured interviews, emphasising the nuances of the citizenship experience of resettled refugees in both countries. This approach unveiled the relevance of status for refugees' practice of citizenship, but also its limitations. At the same time, the findings highlighted refugee agency by exploring their claims of membership through individual and collective action. The research emphasised the relevance of a reflexive negotiation of access and positionality in order to enable refugees' intimate accounts about their unsettled experiences in the resettlement country. The paper draws on the 10 months fieldwork in both Chile and Brazil.
Accommodating dialogue and friction: Focus group methodologies in research on the boundaries of national community, membership and citizenship
Marta Bivand Erdal (Peace Research Institute Oslo, Norway)
Mette Strømsø (Peace Research Institute Oslo, Norway)
Focus group methodologies are well-suited as actor-centered approaches to citizenship research, first, because of producing data reflective of dialogue and friction, second, in approaching participants as active citizens. We draw on experiences from facilitating 30 focus group discussions with 17-18 year olds in Norwegian upper secondary schools (2015), each with 8-10 participants. The focus groups were the final leg of data collection, which also involved informant background sheets and student written texts. Our study explores reflections about 'what it means to be Norwegian' in light of increasing migration-related diversity, with emphasis on questions of membership in the 'national community', boundary-making, and processes of inclusion and exclusion. The written texts provide individual students' reflections, whereas the focus group methodology accommodates discussions and disagreements. Through detailed focus group guides, involving participatory methods of dialogue facilitation, we sought to elicit different views and vantage points. We find that the interplay of written texts, with focus group methodologies, and systematic knowledge about each participant's background, contributes to actor-centered insights, which acknowledge the relational and processual nature of identities and membership. Further, focus group methodologies highlight the often necessary dynamics of active and activist conceptions of citizenship, which participatory and dialogue facilitating methods enable eliciting.