Thinking through Political Subjectivity

in African Diaspora
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Abstract

In the introduction to this special volume the editors focus on the analytical value of “political subjectivities” in emergent social fields that are characterized by multiple diasporic overlaps. They emphasize the central role played by various forms of governance in producing, confirming and contesting politics of transnational incorporation and diasporic participation and consider how these political projects often target members of historically differently situated groups. In particular, they draw attention to moments of exclusion and non-incorporation. The analytical concept of political subjectivity helps to understand how people relate to governance and authorities. It denotes how a single person or a group of actors is brought into a position to stake claims, to have a voice, and to be recognizable by authorities. At the same time the term points to the political and power-ridden dimension within politics of identity and belonging, encompassing the imaginary as well as the judicial-political dimension of claims to belonging and citizenship.

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  • 8)

    According to Isin and Turner (2007) it was Baruch Spinoza who introduced the idea that citizen means to ‘enjoy advantages’ and the term subject refers to obeying ‘ordinances and laws’ (Spinoza 1958: 285 quoted in Isin and Turner 2007: 6). In this understanding a person who is a citizen is at the same time a subject. See also the title of Mahmood Mamdani’s book Citizen and Subject (1996).

  • 9)

    See Blackman et al. (2008) and Reckwitz (2008) for comprehensive overviews of the different strands of theorization.

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