Theoretical frame

Recent discussions from Global City research and Political Theory concentrate on the changing role of the national state in a transnational world (Barnett 2003; Davidson 2000; Low 2004; Vandenberg, 2000).

One central argument states that the rising importance of transnational economic, cultural and political interactions lead to a post-national era, with the consequent formation of a European civil society through daily practices and routines. Post-national power positions include different forms of governance, ranging from local up to transnational levels, which may contest institutionalized links between social power positions and the nation state (Held 1995; Mann 1993).

Cosmopolitan individuals as elite (senior) migrants with a wide variety of lifestyles, political ideas and options, are the prototypes of a new ‘transnational citizen’, who disintegrate all nationally-confined organizational spheres both from ‘above’ as from the ‘bottom’ and establish new forms of flexible social control and power (Faist 1998). Such migrants are often referred to as a living example of an embodiment of the transnational world (Favell 2003).

Within the European Union, the ratification and implementation of the Maastricht Treaty did not only expand the freedom of residence, mobility and transnational economic insertion, but also established new forms of citizenship which contest the common understanding of national citizenship belongings (Wiener 1998). Citizenship rights such as the possibility to vote and to be a candidate in municipal elections do not exclusively relate to a static national concept any longer (Day, Shaw 2002), but include (formal and informal) political participation in different spatial and societal settings. As a consequence, authors such as Mitchell (2003) believe in a rising process of national de-consolidation and defend the de-territorialization of democratic participation.

Lepofsky and Fraser (2003) argue that the rising flexibility in practical uses of citizenship goes hand in hand with a transformation of its theoretical conception. Post-modern or post-national citizenship includes more than only a collection of rights, but also a powerful discursive mechanism which articulates identities and which has shifted from a given status to being a performative act. This idea leads to the question of how citizenship may be important to claim the rights to the city, the production of space and the participation in local politics.

According to Rose (2001), citizenship is currently shifting from a possession towards a capacity of ‘citizenship practice’, closely bound to the expression of identity politics (Hall 2004). A common hypothesis proposes that the recent strengthening of the European institutional frame, the rising mobility of European citizens and the formal possibilities of transnational political participation within Europe develop quasi automatically a European civil society. But apparently, different analyses of municipal data show, for instance that the formal political participation of EU-citizens abroad is extremely low (Jacobs et al. 2004; Strudel 2004). Adrian Favell (2005), who conducted a qualitative research about the political interests and involvement of highly mobile foreign professionals in London, Brussels and Amsterdam derives that these ‘Eurostars’ do not show major interests in the municipal voting rights granted to EU citizens, even if they are locally social active, possess social capital and have minor language problems than traditional labour migrants.

Apparently, it is not the right to vote which encourages political participation of foreigners. It seems that rather highly symbolical codes in local politics keep away even foreigners with a perfect language command from active interaction with the local political elites. In words of the practical field theory of Pierre Bourdieu, this exclusion means that the capital of cultural practices bound to the field of local politics are so restrictively controlled and monopolized by the traditional elites, that foreigners are highly discouraged to participate actively in the political life abroad (Bourdieu 2004). Mahnig (2004) interprets this exclusion of migrants from political participation as a typical and systemic attitude of governmental structures and regimes. This poses the interesting question of why and how specific governance contexts give power to foreigners.

Previous : Objectives

Key Literature (selection of conceptual and theoretical literature)

Barnett, C. (2003): Culture and Democracy. Media, Space, and Representation. Edinburgh.

Davidson, A. (2000): Fractured Identities: Citizenship in a Global World. In: Vasta, E. (Ed): Citizenship, Community and Democracy: 3-21. Houndmills, Basingstoke, London.

Day, S., Shaw, J. (2002): European Union Electoral Rights and the Political Participation of Migrants in Host Polities. In: International Journal of Population Geography 8, 2: 183-199.

Faist, T. (1998): International migration and transnational social spaces. In: Archives Européennes de sociologie - European Journal of Sociology 39, 2: 213-247.

Favell, A. (2003): Games without Frontiers? Questioning the Transnational Social Power of Migrants in Europe. In: Archives Européennes de sociologie - European Journal of Sociology 2003, 3: 397-427.

Hall, S. (2004): Ideologie, Identität, Repräsentation. Hamburg.

Harvey, D. (2006): Spaces of Global Capitalism. A Theory of Uneven Geographical Development. Verso: London.

Lepofsky, J., Fraser, J. C. (2003): Building Community Citizens: Claiming the Right to Place-making in the City. In: Urban Studies 40, 1: 127-142.

Low, M. (2004): Cities as Spaces of Democracy: Complexity, Scale and Governance. In: Barnett, C.,

Low, M. (Eds.): Spaces of Democracy. Geographical Perspectives on Citizenship, Participation and Representation: 129-146. London.

Vandenberg, A. (2000): Contesting Citizenship and Democracy in a Global Era. In: Vandenberg, A. (Eds.): Citizenship and Democracy in a Global Era: 3-17. London; New York.

European Union Marie Curie Actions Seventh Framework Programme CCHS Centro de Ciencias
Humanas y Sociales CSIC Centro Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas


Contact and further information: Dr. Michael Janoschka

Centre of Human and Social Sciences
CSIC – Spanish Council for Scientific Research
Tel.: +34 91 602 2310
E-Mail: michael.janoschka [at]