The Paradox of Relevance: Ethnography and Citizenship in the United States

By Carol J. Greenhouse | Go to book overview

ENVOI
Empirical Citizenship

Before scholars talked about “identity,” there was not one word but many other words: race, class, sex (gender came later), ethnicity, culture, subculture, custom, colonialism, independence movements, new nations, developing countries, inequality, legal pluralism—among others. Identity came belatedly to refer to all of these at once, encompassing (and refusing) the older, separate frames of reference, and evoking their common stakes.1 As a term in usage in the United States, identity is specific to an era when rights discourse came under attack and scholars sought to broaden the discourse of liberal pluralism past singular minority experience, and past the nation-state, toward the critical exposure of contradictions in the sphere of recognition. As modernity was increasingly theorized as contingent on the disavowal of such contradictions (as we have seen in relation to elements of the legislative debates discussed in previous chapters), anthropologists and others made a new critical venture in the contexts and institutionalizations of such disavowals, focusing on contradictions posed by transnationalism for classic theories of citizenship (see, for example, Coutin 1999; Ong 1999). Identity, in other words, is a form of agency in its tacit acknowledgment of both personal association and the social movements that are its history and potentiality (Bhabha 1998; von Eschen 1997).

The transformation in the fields of identity, then, poses questions of the historical specificity of state citizenship in relation to the “global rise of neoliberal capitalism”: “The geographically localized, nationally bounded conception of society and culture, of a homogeneous imagined community, is at once compromised, pluralized, problematized. So, concomitantly, is the nature of identity: no longer contained neatly within citizenship, in the mod-

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The Paradox of Relevance: Ethnography and Citizenship in the United States
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Prologue 1
  • Chapter 1 - Relevance in Question 23
  • Chapter 2 - Templates of Relevance 46
  • Chapter 3 - Texts and Contexts 74
  • Chapter 4 - Textual Strategy and the Politics of Form 107
  • Chapter 5 - The Discourse of Solutions 142
  • Chapter 6 - Democracy in the First Person 174
  • Chapter 7 - Gendering Difference and the Impulse to Fiction 200
  • Chapter 8 - Markets for Citizenship 230
  • Envoi - Empirical Citizenship 256
  • Notes 269
  • References 279
  • Index 307
  • Acknowledgments 319
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