Accueil MSH-Alpes


Producing citizenship.Français

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Authors :

C. Chauveaud, P. Warin
Grenoble, Odenore, October 2009

Collection :

Study n° 31

Language :


Addressee(s) : Government – Town Planning, Construction, Architecture. "Urban citizenship: forms of engagement and issues of solidarity" Programme.

Full text in french.


Methods : Participant observation; individual and collective interviews; testimonies.

Scale : Local.

Resulting focus :  Based on our study of the organization and functioning of non-profit organizations and citizen groups formed in response to individual isolation and withdrawal of communities in a disadvantaged neighbourhood, we conclude that these structures can act as a means of producing citizenship. Whereas we initially considered that, like many others, they were seeking the improbable key to "living together", we found that their participants actually do derive real benefits from them.
Born on the initiative of either local institutions or inhabitants' mobilization, these structures were set up with the explicit intention of avoiding individual or collective withdrawal of persons into what is deemed to be a sterile form of entrenchment. 
Without being a substitute for the existing network of non-profit organizations working on housing, neighbourhood life, culture, sport, etc., or for social services and public institutions, these structures produce collectives, that is, modes of interaction – set in places and activities – that facilitate social recognition. They help people to acquire or regain self-confidence, self-respect, and self-esteem. To that end, they have a round-about approach, seeking to put people into situations where they interact, so that they can (re)build their sociality, that is, the capacity to form social links. Their first contribution is thus to give people a sense of belonging (to others, to places, to moments in time) which helps them to develop their identity.
By working in this direction – and this is their second contribution – they also produce citizenship. Of course, they have no influence on citizenship as a normative (legal, political and social) framework; in this respect they are irrelevant. However, when the practice of citizenship is directed towards the question of identity, they are highly relevant. As contemporary individualism reduces the capacities for collective representation that transcend the individual interest or individual identity representations, citizenship needs a strong individual image and presence. By (re)building their sociality, people (re)construct that image and presence. This process has a remedying effect that Jacques Donzelot attributes to urban citizenship, characterized by him as the objective of increasing equal opportunities. Disadvantages can thus be taken into account and solutions implemented to counter the withdrawal of a part of the population due to its relative marginalization in urban areas.
The "problem" (of individual and collective withdrawal), the "solution" (collectives), and the "objective" (sociality) thus pose the framework for an analysis of these structures as "producers of citizenship" (in terms of social recognition). This reality nevertheless defies the institutions that support them. It can weaken their position with regard to community-based neighbourhood non-profit organizations which have different approaches and seek compromises that are not necessarily compatible with the process presented here.