22 Mar 2010

€2 million for research project to rethink and redefine European citizenship

European Citizenship is under examination

European Citizenship is under examination

An ambitious five-year global research project to examine and redefine what ‘European citizenship’ means is being led by The Open University, with a €2 million grant from the European Research Council. The project Citizenship after Orientalism, based in the Centre for Citizenship, Identities and Governance (CCIG), will examine Western civilisation from the ‘outside in’, using research on cultures and practices of citizenship from across the globe to develop a new perspective on EU citizenship.

The researchers are seeking to reframe the work of Max Weber, widely regarded as one of the most significant thinkers of the past century and one of the founders of social science. He examined Western civilisation from an orientalist view, with the assumption that only the West had developed citizenship. This project will look at Western citizenship without orientalism, comparing practices of citizenship across Europe, India, China, Africa and the Middle East.

Project leader Professor Engin Isin of The Open University said: “Citizenship means so much more than just having a passport. We are examining how people across the globe use their sense of citizenship – whether this is to protest, claim legal rights or simply support a sports team – and on how nations cultivate this notion.”

Examining what it means to be a European citizen, who can act as a citizen, and what obligations derive from this sense of belonging, the project team will look at citizenship in a global context. The researchers will be able to compare the traditions of a wide variety of cultures, for example comparing African ‘nations’ and Aboriginal peoples, or looking at what justice means to different cultures, which will shed new light on how European citizens are viewed and on how notions of citizenship are enacted across the globe.

Professor Isin continued: “A recent example of where citizenship comes into play in a wider context is with the Google censorship issue in China. We have a situation where a United States corporation is battling with China over who has the right to control what Chinese citizens can and cannot see on the Internet while battling at home with the US government over who has the right to know what the US (and other) citizens do or do not do on the Internet. We don’t have a language that allows us to translate across the globe such notions as ‘censorship’ and ‘privacy’. The project will help us develop a cross-cultural understanding of rights and obligations with specific cultural meanings.”

Funding was received from the European Research Council (ERC) Advanced Grant scheme (Institutions, values, beliefs and behaviour ERC-AG-SH2).

About The Open University
• The Open University climbed 23 places to 43rd in the UK’s latest Research Assessment Exercise (RAE 2008), securing a place in the UK’s top 50 higher education institutions. Results showed that more than 50% of the University’s research is internationally excellent (3*), with a significant proportion world-leading (4*).

• The Open University is the UK’s largest university and the world leader in distance education, and celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2009. It has more than 200,000 students in over 40 countries. Of these, more than 1,100 are postgraduate research students.

• The latest edition of the Open University’s Research Highlights brochure can be downloaded from:

• Open Research Online (ORO), the University’s freely accessible repository of research publications, is available at: ORO has around 30,000 visitors from 170 different countries each month, and is currently ranked the fifth best higher education repository in the UK by the Registry of Open Access Repositories (ROAR).

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