Drawing on case studies from the Citizenship Development Research Centre, this paper contends that mechanisms aimed at enhancing citizen engagement need to be contextualised in the states of citizenship in which they are applied. It calls for more attention to be focused on understanding trajectories of citizenship experience and practice in particular kinds of states.
It suggests that whilst efforts have been made by donors to get to grips with history and context – such as DFID’s Drivers of Change analyses or Sida’s Power Studies – less attention has been given to exploring the implications of the dissonance between the normative dimensions of global narratives of participation and accountability, and the lived experience of civic engagement and the empirical realities of ‘civil society’ in diverse kinds of states.
By exploring instantiations of citizenship in different kinds of states, the paper reflects on what citizen engagement comes to imply in these contexts. In doing so, it draws attention to the diverse ways in which particular subject-positions and forms of identification are articulated in the pursuit of concrete social and political projects.