Varieties of Sovereignty and Citizenship

By Sigal R. Ben-Porath; Rogers M. Smith | Go to book overview

Chapter 11
Citizens of the Earth
Indigenous Cosmopolitanism and the Governance of the Prior

ELIZABETH A. POVINELLI

What is it to be a citizen of the earth? What social imaginaries animate cosmopolitan citizenship—the desire to situate political belonging in a global context, from the perspective of the earth, a restricted cosmos to be sure, but one that could be expanded infinitely as new earths were found in far galaxies—such that it might provide a way of being from a place whether a resident or not? This openness of attachment is, of course, also an injunction. Even a political form of inclusion that welcomes all without regard to their state papers has its own forms of exclusion, its own constitutive forms of territorial (en)title(ment), its own nomos.1 After all, the earth does not exist in a universe without cosmological construction. The earth is an artifact of a certain dominating cosmogenesis. Not everyone has, or had, earth as a specific kind of reference—a specific cartological imaginary—in which a round orb has been appropriated from the point of view of space. As Evelyn Edson argued in relation to medieval mapmakers, “real space” is not an achievement of a geographically precise truth carved out of previous, clumsy, and approximate mapping techniques and cultures.2 Rather, real space is one of a series of territorializations of space, what David Harvey sees as a social formation enabled and mediated through capitalism’s territorial productions.3

And so it is with liberal democratic citizenship. It might appear from one perspective to free a person’s political and social destiny from her social identity and relations. But from another perspective, it demands that all

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