Open University webcast: Citizens without frontiers? by Engin Isin

Just watched Engin Isin’s inaugural lecture on the Open University’s webcast site. Currently thinking a lot about state and ideology construction and how climate change is used in the service of limiting, rather than promoting identification with a global humanity/care for others. Isin addressed these issues by pointing to the tension between ‘bounded’ citizenship and the idea of citizenship without frontiers, the latter being currently open to only a limited number of people for particular reasons (fame, expertise etc). Rather than arguing for a particular model of boundary practices, he highlighted the dangers and opportunities of both ‘boundedness’ and being ‘without frontiers’: boundedness having the disadvantage of limitation of access, but the advantage of having a space to act from; being without frontiers having the disadvantage of having to make (ethical, political etc) compromises, but offering opportunities for the imagination of a new cosmopolitanism. the latter was also linked to the danger of ‘covert’ politics of transnational organisations.

Isin placed particular emphasis that certain ‘without frontiers’ movements resulted in another kind of boundedness, because there not moving away enough from established conceptions of what transnationality looks like. Questioning the powers and capacities we possess as citizens, he pointed towards the capacity of citizens ‘without accreditation’ to act within and across boundaries. In this context, Isin challenged the notion of citizenship as ‘leaving behind his or her particularities’ in order to function as a political subject, representing ‘nobody and nothing but itself’. The way he proposed to think about it is in terms of a subject with boundaries that are like ‘nothing we have known before’.


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