Archipelagic Nations: Situating Citizenship in Education




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Common Ground



Peer reviewed



The ‘citizenship issue’ has become a major source of media and political debate as we grapple with the complexities of living in a diverse and globalising social form. This paper problematises citizenship in education at the level of lived experience, noting that specific debates around the citizenship of those in post compulsory educational systems are muted. Greater air space is consumed by engagement with the liberal, ‘safety-first’ approach in response to anxious discourses such as that of ‘integration’, institutionalised through school curricula.

Drawing on findings from a collaborative project, we consider our explorations of the ‘problem’ of citizenship with some of our undergraduate students. These took students and staff into a variety of educational settings including schools, colleges and a ‘free’ school. In each, different models of citizenship prevail, and different kinds of citizens are produced and are productive of citizenship communities.

This paper examines the difficulties of our students moving from commonsense understandings of citizenship to an informed and critical engagement. It elaborates on the ways in which this leads to a questioning of, and transformations in, the roles of, and the relationships between, staff, students, the university and sociology. The paper concludes that the problem of citizenship can be understood as one of praxis. In particular, it notes the power of the sociological imagination in its defamiliarisation, reflexivity, and contestation, to disrupt citizenship relations in the university and beyond. The picture painted of citizenship in this study is of uncertain, complex becomings in which ‘citizens’ fall into cross cutting, and diverse groupings. Whereas the dominant agenda in citizenship education in the UK suggests adherence to a traditional pluralism, we found that in the praxis of doing citizenship, the liberal model is unhinged by the diverse identities and concerns of situated citizens.



citizenship, education, diversity, undergraduate students


Burnett, J. and Cudworth, E. (2008) Archipelagic Nations: Situating Citizenship in Education. The International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, 3(4), pp. 145-154.


Research Institute

Institute for Research in Criminology, Community, Education and Social Justice