Accessible 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

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