Disconnected Citizenship?



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Disconnected Citizenship?

The Impacts of Anti-terrorism Policy on Citizenship in the UK

Lee Jarvis (Swansea University) & Michael Lister (Oxford Brookes University)

This is the submitted, pre-print, version of a paper subsequently published under Jarvis, Lee and Lister, Michael (2013) ‘Disconnected Citizenship: The Impacts of Anti-terrorism Policy on Citizenship in the UK’, In Political Studies, Vol 61/Issue 3, pp.656-675. The full, published version of the article is available at URL: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1467-9248.2012.00993.x/abstract

Disconnected Citizenship?

The Impacts of Anti-terrorism Policy on Citizenship in the UK

Lee Jarvis (Swansea University) & Michael Lister (Oxford Brookes University)
This article draws on primary focus group data from the UK to offer three contributions to recent debate on the impact of anti-terrorism measures on citizenship. Firstly, it presents a qualitatively rich account of citizens’ own perspectives on this relationship to complement existing, largely conceptual, understandings. Secondly, it explores the significance of ethnic identity in public attitudes, in order to complement recent research on religion and Muslim communities more specifically. Finally it traces the implications of anti-terrorism initiatives upon multiple dimensions of citizenship including participation, identity and duties, as much as rights. The article argues that citizens from a range of ethnic minority backgrounds and thus, not only Muslims, believe anti-terrorism measures have directly curtailed and diminished their citizenship. This is in contrast to white participants, who, whilst not untroubled about the impact of these measures, generally viewed this as a concern distanced from their everyday lives. This difference suggests that anti-terrorism measures may be contributing to a condition of disconnected citizenship in the UK. Some individuals enjoy greater confidence in their rights, appear relatively unaffected in terms of their participation and identity, and are content to take up particular duties. For others, in contrast, the perception of diminished rights and targeting by the state contributes to a limiting of political engagement and declining sense of belonging.

Keywords: anti-terrorism; citizenship; rights; participation; identity
The ten years since the 9/11 attacks have been marked by the introduction of a spread of new anti-terrorism powers across the globe (for overviews see Cole, 2003; Haubrich, 2003; Banks et al, 2008; Walker, 2009; Jackson et al, 2011, pp. 222-48). In the UK alone, four major new Acts have been passed uprating prior legislation in this area,i while 2011 witnessed publication of the third version of the UK government’s CONTEST strategy for combating terrorism. These initiatives, which brought into being a (now repealed) power of detention without charge for foreign nationals, increased pre-charge detention periods, a control orders regime, and a swathe of new community resilience initiatives, have been widely critiqued on two levels. The first concerns their impact on fundamental citizenship rights and the second, their consequences upon particular minority populations deemed ‘suspect’ or risky (for example, Said, 2004; Sivanandan, 2006; Gearty, 2007; Choudhury & Fenwick, 2011). These critiques, moreover, have contributed to urgent normative debates on the existence or otherwise of a balance between liberty and security in the context of ostensibly new threats (compare Waldron, 2003; Meisels, 2008; Neocleous, 2007).

Less well understood to date, however, is the impact of this new anti-terrorism architecture on citizenship as a lived, enacted experience, or its impact upon citizens’ views of citizenship and associated norms and practices. Our argument in this article is that a full understanding of the consequences of anti-terrorism policies upon public life necessitates reflection on precisely such questions. For, as Isin (2008, p.17) points out, citizenship is a subjective and performative concept as much as a formal legal status. It is a practice, put otherwise, that is determined, in large part, by its habituations and enactments which cannot be read off from legal frameworks alone; however dramatic transformations therein might be.

In order to explore these questions, this article reports on a recent empirical study examining British citizens’ attitudes to, and conceptions of, security, citizenship and anti-terrorism policy. The discussion begins by outlining the relevant policy context, before reviewing existing scholarship on the anti-terrorism/citizenship nexus. We argue that although there is much to commend in this work, its broadly conceptual emphasis could be usefully supplemented in two ways. The first is via further engagement with citizens’ own perspectives on these measures and their impacts; the second, through further comparative study to contextualise the wealth of recent research on Muslim communities. A second section then introduces the project on which this article draws, before turning to an analysis of our findings in an effort to fill these lacunae. As detailed below, the research employed focus groups with individuals of different ethnic identities and geographic residence throughout the UK. Our findings suggest that for some – generally (but not exclusively) white individuals – the impact of anti-terrorism measures on citizenship is limited. Others – primarily, but not exclusively ethnic minority participants – noted a significant erosion or attenuation of citizenship. This, we conclude, poses potentially negative consequences for all citizens in the longer-term.

The research presented in this article therefore seeks to contribute to existing literature in three ways. It does so, first, by adding an empirical, qualitative depth to legal/theoretical accounts of the consequences of contemporary anti-terrorism measures. This, we suggest, offers a richer and more detailed understanding of how such measures impact upon citizens, and upon citizenship as a practice. Second, it adds sophistication to explorations of the connections between anti-terrorism policy and citizenship more specifically. By exploring conversations around issues of rights, participation, identity and duties that took place in our focus groups, it aims to offer an account of this relationship that extends beyond the dominant focus on rights or liberties in recent debate. And, third, it adds breadth to this literature by exploring the impact of anti-terrorism measures on British publics beyond Muslim individuals and groups.


Citizenship in a time of terror

Existing literature on citizenship and contemporary anti-terrorism policy almost wholly emphasises the latter’s negative impact on the former. In this section, we begin our discussion with a brief review of the UK policy context before sketching four particularly prominent lines of critique.



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