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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter May 29, 2007

The Culture of Citizenship

  • Leti Volpp

The headscarf debate in France exemplifies what is widely perceived as the battle between a culture-free citizenship and a culturally-laden other. This battle, however, presumes the existence of a neutral state that must either tolerate or ban particular cultural differences. In this Article, I challenge that presumption by demonstrating how both cultural difference and citizenship are imagined and produced. The citizen is assumed to be modern and motivated by reason; the cultural other is assumed to be traditional and motivated by culture. Yetcitizenship is both a cultural and anti-cultural institution: citizenship positions itself as oppositional to culture, even as it is constituted by cultural values. Recent scholars of multiculturalism have turned to concepts of citizenship as a solution to the dilemma raised by conflicts over culture. But these concepts of citizenship, namely deliberative democracy and civic participation, replicate the presumption of a culture-less "citizenship" — and thus constitute an ironic choice of solution to the problem of cultural difference.

Published Online: 2007-5-29

©2011 Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co. KG, Berlin/Boston

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