chapter  6
29 Pages

Everyday citizenship

Many studies of citizenship have tended to emphasize the various ways in which people actively engage with the state or other political communities through democratic processes, active citizenship, local resistance and activism. Yet most people live out their lives without participating in these kinds of political or civic acts (MacKian 1995). W. H. Auden’s poem ‘The Unknown Citizen’ (Box 6.1) charts some of the ways in which identity as a citizen is shaped (and lost) by various everyday practices, institutions and social relationships that, in turn, govern how he (or she) participates in different communities at various scales. Gender, employment, sexuality, cultural practices and consumption shape the daily life of the ‘Unknown Citizen’, as well as various local and state institutions. Written in 1939, the poem illustrates that ‘our identities are not made in isolation, but are made in places, and are socially constructed and historically contingent’ (Pykett 2010: 132).