Introduction: the body as a site for politics: citizenship and practices of contemporary slavery

Prokhovnik, Raia (2014). Introduction: the body as a site for politics: citizenship and practices of contemporary slavery. Citizenship Studies, 18(5) pp. 465–484.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/13621025.2014.923700

Abstract

This special issue of Citizenship Studies brings the meaning of citizenship into dialogue with recent work on the body and with practices of contemporary slavery. In bringing the concepts of citizenship, bodies and slavery into collision, we highlight the need to couple slavery with possibilities of citizenship as an alternative to the way in which, as Paddy McQueen below puts it, 'citizenship and slavery are mutually exclusive: one can be either a citizen or a slave, not both'. Recent ideas about the body as a site for politics, where the body is understood in terms of embodied relationality in a situation - a necessarily social category - are a means for bringing about a richer encounter between the concepts of citizenship understood as political subjectivity (as developed in the work of Engin Isin), bodies and slavery. Practices of slavery deny relationality, based instead on a binary master/slave logic of power relations. This introduction connects citizenship with slavery, by identifying citizenship as embodied political subjectivity and slavery as one of the conditions in which the very possibility of this is denied. Taking embodied relationality into account, recognising the necessarily social embodiment of concepts and abjuring an abstract, disembodied sphere of concepts, thus disrupts the standard understanding of slavery as rights violations.

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