[NetBehaviour] Staging Citizenship: Performance, Politics, and Cultural Rights

info info at furtherfield.org
Sun Feb 28 12:32:31 CET 2010

Staging Citizenship: Performance, Politics, and Cultural Rights

esús Martín Barbero | Colombia

Politics has been theatrical performance since its origins, as Richard 
Sennet reminds us when he writes that the polis space in the Agora was a 
place where people gathered to exchange opinions and relish in debate. 
That is why Staging Citizenship, the name of this Hemispheric Institute 
Encuentro given by its organizers in Colombia, is so provocative and 
performative: citizenship exists only insofar as it is enacted, and its 
emerging figures have to do with empowerment strategies, exercised in 
and from the cultural sphere. What the new social, ethnic, gender, gay 
and lesbian, religious or ecological movements demand is not only 
ideological representation but also socio-cultural recognition. They 
seek to become visible in their difference as citizens. This opens up a 
new mode for the political exercise of their rights, since this new 
visibility catalyzes the emergence of new political subjects. This was 
the subject visualized by feminism when it subverted the Left's profound 
machismo with its slogan: “the personal is political!” which came to 
embody both a sense of injury and victimization and a sense of 
recognition and empowerment.

The visibility of the Other—and every difference is an opportunity for 
dominance in a class-based society—together with the diversity of each 
contested identity today (contested not only in relation to other 
identities but in relation to itself) is a constitutive part of the 
recognition of rights. This is expressed in the phonetic similarity and 
semantic articulation of visibilidad (visibility) and veedurías 
(community oversight committees): those practices of investigation and 
intervention by citizens in the public sphere. According to Charles 
Taylor, the notion of recognition is played out in the distinction 
between traditional “honor” as a hierarchical concept and principle, and 
modern “dignity” as an egalitarian principle. Identity is not, then, 
what is attributed to someone by simply belonging to a group, but rather 
the narration of what gives meaning and value to the life and identities 
of individuals and groups. What the notions of diversity and 
interculturality mobilize today is the breakdown of a political 
institutionality unable to extend cultural rights to all sectors of the 
population, be they women or ethnic minorities, evangelicals or 
homosexuals. In regards to the citizenship of "modern man," which was 
conceptualized and exercised above and beyond gender, ethnic, racial, or 
age differences, democracy today needs a cultural mutation that enables 
it to handle a heterogeneity that is as constitutive of citizenship as 
it is constitutive of the State. This is the only way we will escape the 
illusory quest for the reincorporation of alterity into some unified 
whole, be it nation, political party, or religion. Citizenship rights, 
those rights exercised today by the different cultural communities that 
constitute a nation, will then take center stage. This is the new value 
that attributes the human universality of rights to the specificity of 
its very diverse modes of perception and expression.

More information about the NetBehaviour mailing list