“Can Citizenship give people a sense of belonging and identity? Does this constitute citizenship? Do belonging and identity matter in relation to these questions? ” In the revolutionary movements of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, citizenship became associated with the belief in equality, freedom and self-government. Citizenship, in modern society, relates to membership of a nation state, and everyone has the rights and obligations in the nation state (Heater 1990, p. 3). ‘The fact that citizenship has become an actively contested concept has opened up many issues to do with rights, identity, democracy and so on’ (Dower 2003, p.36).
This essay is going to argue that there is an actual connection between citizenship, belonging and identity in a state. To begin with, there should be a brief definition of what citizenship means. Citizenship, in essence, is a ‘contested concept’, as cited above from Dower (2003); thus it has been defined in diverse patterns. Below is a particular definition: Citizenship may be defined as a set of [social] practices which defines a person as a competent member of society, and which as a consequence shape the flow of resources to persons and social groups.
(Turner 1993, p. 2) ‘The word ‘citizen’ may of course be used in a metaphorical sense to indicate, for instance, no more than the idea of membership of a community’ (Dower 2003, p. 36). And the ideal is further considered by Hoover & Plant (cited in Turner 2003, p. 57) that ‘There is a central need now to rethink the idea of citizenship in a more individualistic age’. Those share the same meaning that when citizenship is under consideration, people should take ‘individuals’ into account for community, or broader, society, is formed by many individuals qua citizens.
Within the space of community or society, citizens are obliged with duties, responsibilities, rights and entitlements as TH. Marshall classifies those as civil rights, political rights and social rights (Dower 2003, p. 37; Miller 2000, p. 44; Turner 1993, p. 61). Dower (2003, p. 37) supplements that ‘these duties… constitute the standard and regular duties of citizens’. It partly reveals a sense of belonging when an individual is experiencing a citizenship because if people are not belonged and not admitted for their belonging to the community, they are not assigned with rights and pleased to do the duties.
In other words, it is confirmed that ‘Citizenship is a status conferred on individuals by political communities to which they belong to’ (Dower 2003, p. 37). Along with the duties and rights entailed in citizenship apparently come participation, or rather contribution of citizens to the state. It, indeed, means not only belonging to the state to them but also identification. A state, or a nation-state, can be delineated as ‘the political community’ as Miller (2000) remarks. A support for the idea above can be evidenced by the author’s work:
A citizen identifies with the political community to which he or she belongs, and is committed to promoting its common good through active participation in its political life. (Miller 2000, p. 53) Moreover, Dower (2003, p. 38) claims that ‘The rights and duties I have as a citizen are rights and duties I have in relation to fellow citizens’. By taking part in the obligations and entitlements following the same pattern with ‘fellow citizens’ to contribute to the communities’ good, individuals are themselves to find the identity which commonly and distinctively represents them as elements in a community or a state.
Thus this probably and simultaneously produces a sense of belonging to the group in their perceptions. Later, the author more clarifies this statement by adding ‘Our rights and duties are constituted by the community and its traditions, our identity as citizens is formed in the relationships we have with our community and, as such, we have an overall commitment to the public good of that community. ‘ (ibid, p. 40) A community, particularly a nation-state, must have assistance, cooperation as well as contribution from its whole citizenry to build itself strong and prosperous, hence evoking a sense of belonging and identity from citizens.
Dower (2003, p. 38) refers to the point that ‘A strong nation-state is supported as a distinctive political community by its citizens’ loyalty, sense of belonging to and identification with it’. Due to the so-called ‘formal relationship’ between citizenship and the state (ibid, p. 36), the state is elected to govern and serve citizens and expects citizens to serve them back differently in a more intangible way as their awareness, contribution, and especially their patriotism.
However, the consciousness and sense of belonging must be obtained prior to patriotism by individuals because they can be aware of patriotism only when they has already perceived the fact of his belonging, loyalty and attachment to the state. To be a citizen then is to have certain psychological attitudes towards the country of one’s birth, parentage or choice. In its stronger forms, it comes out in forms of patriotism and in moral priorities that accord the interests of one own community or individuals in it higher moral status than those of people outside it. (Dower 2003, p. 38)
If the belonging bond between individuals and their nation-state did not exist, then how come ‘patriotism’ could be in the presence of their minds? In conclusion, when there are discussions on the issue of citizenship, people ought to consider citizens as individuals. That they, as the citizens, have responsibilities and duties to the nation-states as well as rights to protect themselves gives a sense of their belonging and identity to the states. Apart from those, belonging and identity is associated with citizenship through patriotism due to citizens’ loyalty to and firm relationship with their nation-states.
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