Engaging Authority: Citizenship and Political Community

Trevor Stack (Editor), Rose Luminiello (Editor)

Research output: Book/ReportBook


Engaging Authority: Citizenship and Political Community is an ambitious interdisciplinary endeavor to explore how authority is entailed in different versions of citizenship and political community. Who or what claims authority in the name of “a people,” and to what effect? What kind and scope of authority is claimed? And who is held to be part of such a community? Such questions have long been asked by scholars across many disciplines. Engaging Authority brings together scholars from anthropology, constitutional studies, cultural studies, politics, political theory, sociology, and philosophy in a collaborative project to develop a multifaceted understanding of citizenship in political community.

The volume begins with the premise that to describe or identify oneself as a citizen entails a particular relationship to authority. Citizens are understood to be members of a community which we consider “political” in that members are invoked, and may also be involved, in the business of governing. How does this relationship function? How is community invoked by those exercising authority, and in what senses do citizens partake in its exercise? In this volume, we explore different forms of the citizen’s relationship to authority in political community, across and beyond the variations that usually concern scholars, such as the self-governing people, nation-states, popular sovereignty, and democratic citizenship.

The aim of Engaging Authority is not to synthesize disparate interdisciplinary literatures, some of which stretch back centuries, but instead to bring scholars with different approaches and foci into dialogue with each other. The collaboration illuminates the relationship to authority entailed in political community from a variety of perspectives. Assembling a truly interdisciplinary volume is a challenging endeavor in a highly specialized and often fragmented academy. In order to ensure that the chapters engage with each other, without compromising a truly interdisciplinary approach, the scholars in this volume agreed on a common set of questions which reflect commonalities between our otherwise diverse approaches, and enable a coherent discussion of authority in political community:

o Who claims to govern in the name or person of the “people”?
o What kind and scope of authority is being claimed?
o Who is held to be part of the “people”?
o What kind of “people” is held to be able or worthy of “self-governing”?

In designing this volume, we agreed that we would each endeavor to answer all four questions, in order to link dimensions of citizenship in political community which are usually treated separately. We were driven to move beyond remarking solely on the exclusivity of national communities to consider the particular kinds of authority that are legitimized as a result; beyond addressing the dynamics of representation, to reflect on what “people” is represented in the first place; and beyond who is empowered in the name of political community, including what is entailed in citizenship, to examine how such authority is limited in the name of the “people.”

While our commitment to a common set of questions ensures the integrity of the volume, our authors still have very different ways of answering them, reflecting the unusual range of disciplines in Engaging Authority. Two of the authors offer primarily normative accounts, several others develop explicitly normative positions out of the specific cases that they consider, and our more empirical authors offer grounds for normative accounts, which arise from positions informed by a range of political standpoints. Our empirical chapters extend beyond the usual contexts of Western Europe and North America to include the cases of Poland, Hungary, India, Mexico, Kurdistan and the Islamic State.

The result of this interdisciplinary exercise is a volume that shares a clear frame of reference, allowing us to bridge and make contributions to the disparate literatures.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationLanham, Maryland
PublisherRowman & Littlefield
Number of pages232
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-5381-5911-8
ISBN (Print)978-1-5381-5910-1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2022

Publication series

NameFrontiers of the Political: Doing International Politics
PublisherRowman & Littlefield International


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