Working Paper

Citizenship and the Boundaries of the Acknowledged Community: Identity, Affiliation and Exclusion

Published on 1 January 2002

The study of citizenship began as the study of political rights and democratic governance within Western politics and philosophy. Today however, it encompasses a broader sociological perspective highlighting that a universally shared concept of citizenship is further away from practical articulation and understandings of the concept than ever. This paper will examine the interaction of two different forms of citizen belonging, and the rights and responsibilities associated with these:

  1. membership of the imagined community of the nation-state and 
  2. membership of various acknowledged communities at the sub-national level. 

In examining these different forms of citizen membership, so to speak, the paper explores processes of access and exclusion – both separately and in interaction with each other.

This working paper aims to contribute to the development of a research agenda on the theme of ‘inclusive citizenship’, particularly the challenges it presents in the context of poorer southern countries today. Through a historical analysis, it argues that the notions of citizenship constructed in the West are inappropriate in post-colonial contexts, in which pre-existing differences within the population have been exacerbated or artificially suppressed by the strategic manoeuvrings of colonial power. As a result, prevailing ideas about personhood, identity and affiliation lead to fractured notions of citizenship and exclusionary outcomes. The author concludes proposing three themes for future research into inclusive citizenship in the South.


Naila Kabeer

Emeritus Fellow

Publication details

published by
Kabeer, N.
IDS Working Paper, issue 171
1 85864 473 9


Related content