Spaces of Citizenship

  • Sergio Tamayo
Open Access
Part of the Performance Philosophy book series (PPH)


Today, one way to understand the relationship between politics and culture, particularly in Latin America, is by observing how ‘spaces of citizenship’ are maintained. This concept emerges from empirical analyses I developed, focusing on Mexico. This opens a further area of research: How is one to reconstruct the formative process of social relations? How might ‘spaces of citizenship’ be reformulated so that new social subjects might emerge? These questions may appear obvious, but they pose a radically different way to conceive of societies globally—not only through the lens of Western traditions of knowledge in industrialized countries, but also from the perspective of the other ‘half’ of the world. The efforts of Latin-American scholars have not yet gone far enough in rethinking the social in a different fashion, or at least in a complementary approach taken from established Anglo- and Eurocentric positions.


Today, one way to understand the relationship between politics and culture, particularly in Latin America, is by observing how ‘spaces of citizenship’ are maintained. This concept emerges from empirical analyses I developed, focusing on Mexico. This opens a further area of research: How is one to reconstruct the formative process of social relations? How might ‘spaces of citizenship’ be reformulated so that new social subjects might emerge? These questions may appear obvious, but they pose a radically different way to conceive of societies globally—not only through the lens of Western traditions of knowledge in industrialized countries, but also from the perspective of the other ‘half’ of the world. The efforts of Latin-American scholars have not yet gone far enough in rethinking the social in a different fashion, or at least in a complementary approach taken from established Anglo- and Eurocentric positions.

As Bryan Roberts (1999) argues, struggles for rights of citizenship in Latin America have become the main engine for achieving change in social and political affairs. Nevertheless, in Latin America, this is an entirely new phenomenon. For decades, citizenship did not hold any weight: neither in politics, nor in the national imaginary. Many scholars from Latin America therefore reviled this term, considering the emphasis on citizenship to be an ideological weapon deployed by elites to deflect attention from more pressing social inequalities.

However, the economic, technological, political and social changes attending globalization have created an adverse effect. These shifts overvalue a handful of concepts in order to provide an absolute explanation for new social realities. Terms such as civil society, citizenship, and democracy are used to replace expressions such as class formation, social inequality, social movements, nationalism, ‘the people’ or socialism.

We understand that this question sets up a dialectic perspective. As argued by Roberts, the concept of citizenship can easily be subsumed to private or elitist interests, helping render inequalities invisible. However, the concept of citizenship and its specific practices also harbors its own dynamic that has escaped the control of the elites and the state. Citizenship builds on unstable practices, and these produce an unequal battlefield. Furthermore, although the institutional results of these citizenship practices can be defined from above, the social struggle for citizens’ rights might also create opportunities from below.

The concept of ‘spaces of citizenship’ faces this problem directly. In epistemological terms, it can be understood to arise from the uncoupling of the structural dynamics of the world system and historical processes, between system and lifeworld, between structure and agency, between global and local, between universalism and particularism, between objectivity and subjectivity. These dichotomies are in fact interfaces of the tension of the social world and not only mere polarizations (see Wallerstein 1987; Habermas 1989; Bourdieu 1989; Wacquant 2002; Giddens 1995; Cohen 1987, 1996; Touraine 1993, among others). Indeed, ‘spaces of citizenship’ constitute struggles that arise because of the existence of several levels of action and settings that point out the need for mediation. The balance between such extremes can occur through social action, communicative action, habitus, culture, historical analysis, and the construction of the social subject.

My personal understanding of this takes its starting point from a series of empirical studies, undertaken since 1990, concerning the construction of citizenship in Latin America and Mexico. The concept of citizens’ spaces—or ‘spaces of citizenship’—has been brought about, not as a theoretical hypothesis about the social, but rather as the theoretical result of empirical studies (Tamayo 2010). These studies examine the relationship between several pieces of a puzzle: city and citizenship; collective action and citizen participation; the impact of globalization on Latin-American economies and citizen revolts; the contentious politics of several citizenship projects; and the identity formations resulting from these diverse citizenship projects. Such projects often led to a level of social cohesion among specific groups, while excluding others. Indeed, ‘spaces of citizenship’ can be understood as a battlefield that testifies, sometimes dramatically, to the resistance of domination, inequality and injustice. It is a political, real and metaphoric space; it is the domain where social struggle takes place.

In this article, we will consider three categories that have shaped this approach: citizenship, space and the relationship between citizen practices and the city—bonded to the issues of community and political space. What follows is a definition of ‘spaces of citizenship’.


Latin-American people are experiencing a tremendous identity shift: from proletarian and ‘the people’, to ‘citizen’. The emergence of this new social subject in the era of globalization raises the following question: How has a citizen-based political practice historically transformed and affected cultural conceptions and forms of social organization? Of key importance is the context in which this question emerges. As a semi-peripheral country, Mexico has come abruptly and violently into a new model of growth. Several collective and relevant actors are trying to deal with this new social reality—notably, the state, entrepreneurial organizations and grassroots movements. The answer may be simply that citizens change and affect society through the formation of ‘spaces of citizenship’.

In a strict sense, the terms ‘collective identity’, ‘participation’ and ‘practices of citizenship’ are essential in developing this hypothesis, offering a distinctive way to explain the changes that occur at specific points of social formation. Being a citizen comes hand-in-hand with a whole process of identity formation. In his text on citizen culture and consumerism in Latin America, García Canclini (1995) defines citizenship as the fact of sharing social and cultural experiences that provide a sense of belonging to a community. This cultural understanding takes into account the fact that citizen identity is best expressed through solidarity. However, accurate data points out that this cohesion is strengthened by the stigmatization of the foreigner and the la lutte pour la reconnaissance (Honneth 2000). Consequently, when we talk about identity, we do not think of an innocent ethical value, but we do assume that it reveals contradictory cultural practices and is born from an unavoidable tension between the included and the excluded. The study of citizen identity has to do with the making of a social subject, but it moves beyond the conceptual mistake of assuming this identity is pre-given or stable. We cannot only explain citizen identity through integration, inclusion and homogeneity, from a single and compact vision. Within a collective identity, citizens confront themselves with difference, exclusion and diversity—both from outside and from within. This tension qualifies different modes of identity and, accordingly, distinctive citizen practices.

To employ Melucci (1996), when individuals fight to change or enlarge citizenship, they are playing out a symbolic questioning of dominant codes. Through this they create a space of struggle, which we consider to be a further way to define ‘spaces of citizenship’. This space of struggle is the particular focus of this work.

In a context of inequality and tension, the community defines the rules of participation. This means that various types of citizenship are reflected in social inequalities, the lack of social justice, the allocation of resources, the limits of individual liberties, and the struggle for power (Bauböck 1994). However, the concepts of citizenship and related ideologies (Shafir 1998; Reiner 1995) strive for equality; attainment of this is their utopia. In real terms, this label promoting universal rights serves to simply render inequalities invisible. As Marx explains—later elaborated on by Marshall (1950)—citizenship is just ‘a skin of a lion’: it can cover up differences among classes, but it can never negate them. One can be a citizen in being a soldier, a trader, an entrepreneur, a worker and/or a student. Such roles become the qualifier of a citizen and define the specificity of the practices and experiences of making citizenship. Thus, citizenship is not unique or fixed. Instead, it means different things for different actors, producing unequal social practices. Citizenship is a shifting process. It is a means, rather than an end, which operates to transform social relations.

Citizenship is unstable because it is thought out, figured out, longed for, and worked out in several ways. Social groups build different citizenship projects that oppose one another, such as political parties or social organizations. These citizenship projects are based on social practices, and different ideas of citizenship (Dagnino et al. 2010). Some scholars define this as a ‘substantive citizenship’, in contrast to institutional or formal citizenship (García and Lukes 1999).

The case of Mexico offers further reaffirmation of the three very closely linked dimensions that build citizenship, which together determine existing citizenship projects. These three dimensions define practices and ideas with regard to citizenship. The first dimension is the relationship between the state and civil society; this involves concepts such as nation and nationality, as well as the legal and cultural membership of a community. The second dimension is the process that defines—and redefines—citizen rights that are related to membership and serve to regulate social behavior. Marshall (1950) points out that citizen rights denote the imbalance of social, civil and political citizenship, and the more recent introduction of the cultural dimension of rights by theorists. The third and final dimension is participation, understood as the political process through which one may take part in a community and be involved in the decision-making process: one path toward democratization in a society (Tamayo 2010).

Struggles for citizenship can offer clear depictions. Firstly, they illustrate the social struggle between the state and well-organized groups from civil society. Secondly, citizenship specifically elucidates the struggle between those who demand an increase in rights, and those appealing for the abolition of others. Thirdly, it can show the balance between the regulation of citizen participation, the intensification of the democratization process, and political independence. Struggles for citizenship search for political hegemony (Mouffe 2003); they look for the feasibility of a citizen project, representing a clash of class interests. Furthermore, citizen projects are inevitably under the scrutiny of social actors according to their own vision of the state-civil society relationship, citizens’ rights, and the limitations placed on participation.

The case of Mexico offers evidence regarding the nature of changes in political culture and is sourced from the interaction of three social actors: the political elite, the entrepreneurs, and the grassroots movement—all confronting each other based on their own claims and interests. All these actors undertake individual processes to draw on the views of social movements—some from below and the others from above—deriving from the vision of the governing elite and entrepreneurial class, in order to build their citizen projects.

The perspective from below defines citizenship as collective and nationalist, demanding an increase of social rights and promoting broader political participation. By contrast, the perspective from above—of traditional liberal conception—looks for an individualistic citizenship. Evidence demonstrates that citizenship means different things for different social actors.

This dynamic can be observed in Fig. 1, showing these changes schematically in Mexico. From 1970 to 1982, the government defined and increased (although under certain limitations) the social rights of the population, privileging them over political and civil rights. In fact, the state intentionally minimized and abandoned civil rights—witnessed in presidential speeches as well as in daily practice—and achieved extreme limits on political rights through the use of corporate control and the absence of democracy within electoral processes. From 1982 to 1994, the emphasis was on civil rights—mostly those linked to private property—freedom of speech and religious liberty. The state tried to have less direct involvement in economics, denying the benefits of its populist predecessors’ social policy and supporting demands linked to individual property. There was a general move to restrain social welfare programs.
Fig. 1

Vision and hierarchy of citizen rights and strategy changes during the 1968–1988 period in Mexico, according to social actors. (Source: Tamayo 1999)

As for entrepreneurs, they immediately reacted to those changes promoted by the state, compelled by the structural disturbance of the economy. For the first time, they moved politically and as a united class. In constituting for themselves what Touraine (1988, 1981) defines as ‘the birth of a social movement’, it naturally follows that social policies were the last ones they chose to support. From 1982 to 1992, the strategy and argument of the entrepreneurial class remained largely the same, as did the support for the Mexican bourgeoisie that was contained in their foundational principles. This finally led to an ideological proximity to the government’s neo-liberal ideas, each party advocating individual rights without any constraints (Roberts 1995, 2010; Tamayo 1999).

Finally, Fig. 1 shows that the working class and grassroots movement were forced to defend rights that were attained decades ago. This explains why social groups of the 1970s focused on the centralization and prioritization of social and labor rights. With the onset of the economic crisis of the 1980s, their demands become more pressing. The movement fought for land, credits, education, social welfare, and better wages. Social citizenship overlapped dialectically with both civil citizenship—especially human and women’s rights (Tamayo 2000)—and political citizenship, especially under electoral participation (López Monjardín 1989, 1986). This scenario led to an open debate in which the grievances of the population were expressed alongside social, civil and political concerns.

Empirical data suggests that several social sectors formed a wide social, democratic and nationalist movement (Tamayo 1999). Their struggle tried to combine and forecast demands from different sectors—including peasants, workers, residents, women, young people and students. With their help, the movement came up with the detail of a broad and nationwide plan that provided for, in the first instance, a huge range of actions. The struggle brought about what is termed a ‘space of citizenship’.

As demonstrated, through the survival of a variety of practices and ideas of citizenship, it is not possible to talk about the existence of only one kind of citizenship. However, I do not believe it is accurate to talk about citizenships in a plural way, as some analysts with a postmodern bias do. I consider that there is a citizenship rooted in institutional models and social controls that determine the social and legal behavior of individuals, both on an international and on an intra-national level (Bäubock 1994, 1999; Kymlicka 1996, 1999). Nevertheless, we would do well to pay attention to practices of citizenship with reference to all the above-mentioned distinctive collective experiences.

In this regard, there is support for the perspective of Giddens (1995; see also, Cohen 1987) over the way citizenship is constituted. Building on the work of these analysts, citizenship may be articulated in three realms: agency, praxis, and context. Agency refers to those structural attributes of social systems; praxis, to the name of articulated patterns of social interaction; and context describes the situational aspect of these interactions in time and space.1 Thus, we can say that practices of citizenship are a synthesis of the social experience and struggle of citizens to achieve particular visions of citizenship, and the socio-historical context in which they unfold.


The concept of space is essential to the development of the theoretical argument that follows. In political sociology, the immediate reference to space is that given to the public sphere (Habermas 1993; Honneth 1996, 2000; Voirol 2003; Braig and Huffschmid 2009). This is an analytical and abstract concept of the communicative interaction among social actors. ‘Spaces of citizenship’ have an abstract and metaphorical intention but, alongside this, the space of citizenship exists in both its social and physical dimensions (Bourdieu 1989; Giddens 1995; Wildner 2003; Wildner and Tamayo 2002).

Despite the wide variety of perspectives pertaining to space from many different fields of knowledge,2 I consider Giddens’ view to be the one that affirms the contribution of historical geography to the study of cultural space. The analyst here picks up the contributions of Hägerstrand from geography in the analysis of day-to-day life, suggesting that, in everyday life, individuals associate with each other through entities that emanate from scenarios of interaction. These entities are other agents, indivisible objects (the solid material qualities of the environment of action), divisible matter (air, water, minerals, food) or domains. Domains imply something that Giddens calls a regionalization of a space-time: the movement of life-paths through scenarios of interaction that exhibit various forms of spatial differentiation.

From this outline, Giddens explains the theoretical and methodological meaning of the space-time concept within his notion of agency, praxis, and context in his theory of structuring this. For the specific case of space, the author focuses on the psychological qualities of social agents—as well as interactions to be found in face-to-face situations—both locating those actors in contexts of interaction and extending the inquiry into the interweaving of these contexts. In other words, he places interactions in time and space at different levels and scales.

In this complex relationship, our own vision of the function of space is not one of a passive support of objects. Instead, space becomes more of an actor, created through the dynamic relationship between those objects with the power of affecting socialization. Therefore, space is a social product and it becomes an active and critical part of social organization. Individuals act and think in ways which are always located in time and space. They are beings that inhabit and occupy a place and, in doing so, they become subjects of their own space. According to André Frémon (1988, quoted in Di Méo 1998), individuals are active, thinking and rational subjects and cannot be considered mere inert objects. They act over space but, at the same time, space conditions sometimes determine their behaviors. An inseparable and permanent relationship exists between living beings and space, which is both real and imaginary (Di Méo 1998, p. 73).

Yet, in considering space as a social product, its perception—imaginary, as well as interpreted though the social—is differentiated. This is due to the fact that it represents a society that is not homogeneous in its constitution, nor in its practice. The social, cultural and political position of individuals and groups informs images of space that, furthermore, determine the fashion of its visibility as only partially conceivable, as a collection of many pieces.

The concept of space is useful in re-evaluating expressions of culture in Mexico City. Case studies made in urban contexts constitute a way to continue the exploration of citizenship practices between 1968 and 1988 (Tamayo 1999). Since this time, research has become more spatially defined, contained by the perimeters of the city. The process involves the selection of political events and situations of social interaction in order to observe the collective behavior of citizens in public space. This forms an innovative method to introduce ourselves to the means of portraying the political culture (Tamayo et al. 2015; Tamayo 2016).

There are numerous examples of this; for instance, the influence exerted on the inhabitants of Mexico City by the armed indigenous rebellion from Chiapas, organized by the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) in 1994. At the time, civil society demonstrated its stance of non-violence in several ways, and was significantly hard-pressed to reorient political events and governmental authoritarian policies. What happened there was something that I refer to as a virtual bridge of struggle and communication, formed by relevant actors of the Lacandona Jungle and the city. Diverse collective actors constituted a space of citizenship in dispute (Tamayo 2002).

After that—between 1995 and 2000—the people of the city began to express themselves in crowded events within the urban space, filling streets and squares. These public demonstrations had their own demands, depicting the political orientation of citizen practices—social rights, civil rights and political rights—around social welfare, justice and electoral transparency. All these issues generated a broad argument about the borderlines of citizen participation, giving birth to a conflictual space of citizenship (Tamayo 2010).

In the later years, this metropolis became the site of strong confrontation between different social and political projects, each of them sustaining a different utopia and a different vision of both city and nation. The city became then a receptacle for nationwide cultural dramas and social or political conflicts; national unions, regional organizations, political movements and indigenous rebellions became manifest, along with other demands from urban local organizations and civic associations. During the first decade of the twenty-first century, political parties centralized this effervescence within electoral campaigns—for example, to elect the President of the Republic and the new Governor for Mexico City—and the grassroots movement intensified huge public protest rallies around the claims of EZLN and other students and social movements.

Thus, public space changed due to several processes (Braig and Huffschmid 2009): a larger political dispute through the vote of the citizens, an organized debate from the legal political parties, an increasingly decisive intervention of the mass media and the ideological handling of public opinion surveys. Public space manifested in the way citizens openly took part in public affairs, even outside of institutional channels. This situation could be observed by the way citizens behaved collectively during public events in relation to several electoral preferences and by the degree of ideological persuasion in the collective imaginary of those political projects. Indeed, several groups and social classes in dispute produced, transformed, and politically appropriated public space.

The study of practices of citizenship shreds the political analysis of the public sphere and brings attention to the meaning of the physical space in relation to politics. Spatializing the public sphere has allowed us to remark on the relationship between the political components of arguments about several city and nation projects; furthermore, about the political (and necessarily physical) ways to appropriate urban space.

With this theoretical basis, I have studied specific cases through ethnographic approaches to the space of citizenship in Mexico. My object of study has focused on two types of case: first, the elections in Mexico have been full of conflict and fraught with violence; second, social protests have multiplied, witnessed in demonstrators taking to the streets of cities (Tamayo 2012).

On the one hand, electoral rallies reflect the articulation of citizenship projects toward popular culture of citizens. Political culture is expressed through interactions and meanings. In short, the elections synthesize symbolic forms of the struggle for power. The situational analysis of the forms of social and symbolic appropriation of public space, both physical and metaphorical, reveals interactions and identities that unfold as a field of deliberation and political confrontation. It is possible to emphasize the above if we compare the forms of political appropriation between political parties, both right and left. The mobilization of citizens takes place around these political projects (Tamayo et al. 2015).

On the other hand, I have studied cases of social protest. I am interested in explaining them as experiences of citizenship. I analyze the way in which protest builds collective identities through the dynamics of contestation, the repertoires of mobilization, and the forms of symbolic appropriation of public space. The larger national demonstration of the EZLN Indians, who went from the jungle to Mexico City, was an exemplary case. This protest produced spaces of political significance at the geographical, urban and ethnographic level. In this way, the Zapatistas constructed a space of citizenship in their passage through the country, and in their arrival to Mexico City. Both these differentiated and connected spaces were reflected in the way they were physically and symbolically appropriated to public space (Tamayo 2016).

Spaces of Citizenship

The term ‘spaces of citizenship’ refers to the conflictual relationship between practices of citizenship and the constitution of the community. Community is understood as an identity produced by people in time and space, as well as a set of interactions among individuals moving at different scales. ‘Spaces of citizenship’ can be established on an international community level or on a regional or community-based level, such as through the European Union or the North America Free Trade Agreement (cf. Habermas 2001; Bauböck 1994, 1999). ‘Spaces of citizenship’ are also established at the level of the nation-state within its own territorial boundaries (Brubaker 1992). It is possible to consider a community on an ethnic scale: nations and villages inside a multi-ethnic state (Kymlicka 1996, 1999). The city is another scale of community: the polis as a community of residents (Hill 1994; Isin 1999a, b). Finally, it is possible to consider a community coming from elements of the urban structure—such as the ghettos, neighborhoods and villages of a multicultural city (Rogers 1995).

A community is anchored to processes of identity formation, traditions, culture, language and history. However, it can also be grouped around judicial affairs and certain rules that determine collective behaviors. The main ingredient of community is its political legitimacy. In order to legitimize itself, the community requires an inclusive concept of society that simultaneously allows a radical enactment of exclusion for those who do not belong. Citizenship is a community—like an association—with regulations and norms applied to all. It can only be institutionalized within territorially controlled borders and on the terms of its own membership structure. However, at the heart of its cohesion is culture. Culture implies permanence, belonging and common practices. Accordingly, it involves being physically present within the territorial space. It requires a spatial limit: the boundaries of citizens’ struggles.

The city, the community and the nation-state all become the context and the environment of citizen practices. They form the battlefield—the site of several struggles for citizenship. City, national territory or world regions all represent spaces of confrontation in which the distinctive projects of city, citizenship and nation are played out.

More precisely, the city acquires a different connotation in the analysis of citizenship. The city is a primary space where community is formed. As a space, the city is a relational product of its components: architecture, facilities, images and landscapes, materiality and citizens. The city can also be thought of as a container for activity, a three-dimensional context for social action. However, at the same time, it is much more than that. It becomes, as a fundamental part of daily life, where the demand for citizenship can be made manifest as a result of political action.

The city is a place to stay. The city obtains significance when it is perceived, used, practiced, interpreted and qualified. Whether a city is large or small, beautiful or ugly, conservative or liberal, violent or safe, it is the context in which social identities are formed and expressed. A community begins, and can be qualified as a collectivity where resources and power are allocated.

As we have seen, projects of citizenship are collective aspirations which generate citizens’ actions, ideas and utopias about the future of the social. Space, either within the city or the nation, becomes the battlefield for such aspirations, transforming them into ‘spaces of citizenship’. This battlefield is not always visible, for it is not an institution in itself, but a situation of tension and conflict. This is a space of transition and transgression.

In Mexico, a broadened space for citizenship was created over a twenty-year period: from 1968—when the student movement rose—until 1988, when the elected President Carlos Salinas de Gortari initiated the neo-liberal Mexican project. The most important feature of this transition was the presence of deep changes in the political economy that modified older relationships with other countries, creating new international circuits on the level of larger cities. According to Giddens (1995), this change was not only a result of the structural properties of the social system, but of articulated patterns of social interactions and the situational specificity of these interactions.

Objective factors caused this crisis, but the social response and resistance had an eminently subjective character (Mandel 1980). The space of citizenship created then was outlined as a transition for transgressing institutions understood as the very essence of the organization of social life. ‘Spaces of citizenship’ as an emerging movement invaded day-to-day life in a creative, euphoric fashion, through continuous social effervescence and explosive energy. The changes that took place were sometimes suggested or enforced by institutional commands, but they were always a result of social antagonisms uncontrolled by the system (Mouffe 2003; Norris 1999).

Let us go back to the original idea of space at its levels of city and national territory, and try to link it to the Mexican experience. There is the fact that citizen space was a political realm, created through appropriation—by citizens—of public space . Citizens interacted and expressed themselves within the physical space. Accordingly, citizens built a relational space that acquired new meanings for the population. It does not matter how different social groups express themselves in various cities; if the objectives are the same, the communicational flows multiply. Thus, a network of actions is produced from the concrete space of a locality. An intermediate-level space is constituted (the so-called mesolevel networks), developing broadcasting processes, in a sense more historical and geographical.3 The citizen, in his or her political action, inhabits and appropriates public space collectively and politically on an interpersonal level, but individuals are also capable of thinking globally.

Public space acquires meaning because it is symbolically charged with the ideas and representations of groups of citizens; but it also is significant because it is a concrete, practiced space, established by citizens. In this space, several citizen identities can be formed and displayed. It is the scene for the achievement of citizens as political beings. The city or the community, talking about space, is just that: a space that is qualified by its characteristics and practices of citizenship.

This idea of citizen space is comparable with Pierre Bourdieu’s concept of ‘social space’ (1989). Let us say that social space represents the social world constituted by objective material elements, as well as by subjective representations; by the social status of classes within that social space, as well as its cultural expressions. Thus, citizen space is that world of citizenship made of objective material elements—the political and symbolic appropriation of a square, public demonstrations on streets, the repertoire of social mobilizations (see also Tilly 1995 and McAdam et al. 2003)—as well as the representations, perceptions and ideas of citizenship. Hence, citizen spaces are objective as well as subjective. They are objectively constituted on two levels: first, the social appropriation of the physical space involving objects, architectures, regions, city networks and individuals who legitimize such a space; second, the city, the region, the community and the nation become objects to be claimed by citizens—the right to the city, to self-determination, the right to sovereignty and the right for cultural autonomy.

On the other hand, collective actors build spaces of citizenship subjectively because they perform, imagine and interpret them. As a result, spaces of citizenship are built in a social and in a political fashion. They are changing all the time, and they are dependent on the result of social confrontations. They are simultaneously both spaces of interaction and spaces of argumentation (Alejandro 1993).

Final Remarks

The concept of ‘spaces of citizenship’ is useful in order to understand various citizen-based practices generated within communities and in cities. On the one hand, ‘spaces of citizenship’ represent spaces produced by the idea of political community, such as the polis. On the other hand, we understand the city as the immediate place for the exercise of citizen rights.

Spaces of citizenship are the result of social struggles. For this reason, they do not respond to fixed and untouched attributes. Spaces of citizenship are a product out of actions and imaginaries of individuals acting on the social.

The concurrence between city (or community) and citizenship provides a way to understand the social and symbolic production of citizen spaces. The analysis of spaces of citizenship can indicate the complex correspondence between city as space and citizenship as political, social and cultural practice.


  1. 1.

    This triadic relationship has very important methodological connotations. In the latest works, a different methodology has been applied, based on the experience of the Manchester School (cf. Hannerz 1986) and Thompson’s depth ethnography (1993). Both authors underline the link between the objective and subjective aspects through context. In empirical matters, it can be expressed in this way: the relationship between ethnographic space, hermeneutics, and the socio-historical context (see Tamayo and López-Saavedra 2012).

  2. 2.

    The notion of space has been defined by Physics, Mathematics, Landscape Architecture, Geography, Architecture, Urban Studies, Music, Dance, Art, and so on.

  3. 3.

    A good example of this relational level can be found in the analysis made by Hedströn et al. (2000), recovering the notion of mesolevel networks to broadcast the social movements and political party ideologies.


  1. Alejandro, Roberto. 1993. Hermeneutics, Citizenship, and the Public Sphere. New York: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
  2. Bauböck, Rainer. 1994. Transnational Citizenship: Membership and Rights in International Migration. Aldershot: Edward Elgar.Google Scholar
  3. ———. 1999. Liberal Justifications for Ethnic Group Rights. In Multicultural Questions, ed. Christian Joppke and Steven Lukes, 133–157. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bourdieu, Pierre. 1989 [1984]. Distinction, a Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Braig, Marianne, and Anne Huffschmid, eds. 2009. Los poderes de lo público. Debates, espacios y actores en América Latina. Madrid: Iberoamericana/Vervuert.Google Scholar
  6. Brubaker, Rogers. 1992. Citizenship and Nationhood in France and Germany. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Cohen, Ira J. 1987. Structuration Theory and Social Praxis. In Social Theory Today, ed. A. Giddens and J.H. Turner. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  8. ———. 1996. Teoría de la estructuración, Anthony Giddens y la Constitución de la Vida Social. México: UAM; [orig. Engl. Cohen, Ira J. 1989. Structuration Theory: Anthony Giddens and the Constitution of Social Life. London/New York: Macmillan/St. Martin’s Press.].Google Scholar
  9. Dagnino, Evelina, Alberto J. Olvera, and Aldo Panfichi, eds. 2010 [2006]. La disputa por la construcción democrática en América Latina. México: FCE, CIESAS and Universidad Veracruzana.Google Scholar
  10. Di Méo, Guy, ed. 1998. Geógraphie sociale et territoires. Paris: Nathan Université.Google Scholar
  11. Frémont, André. 1988. France, géographie d’une société. Paris: Flammarion.Google Scholar
  12. García, Soledad, and Steves Lukes, eds. 1999. Ciudadanía justicia social, identidad y participación. Madrid: Editorial Siglo XXI.Google Scholar
  13. García Canclini, Nestor. 1995. Consumidores y ciudadanos, conflictos multiculturales de la globalización. México: Editorial Grijalbo; [orig. Engl. García Canclini, Nestor. 2001. Consumers and Citizens, Globalization and Multicultural Conflicts. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.].Google Scholar
  14. Giddens, Anthony. 1995. La Constitución de la Sociedad, bases para la teoría de la estructuración. Buenos Aires: Amorrortu, reimpresión 1998; [orig. Engl, Giddens, Anthony. 1984. The Constitution of Society, Outline of the Theory of Structuration. Berkeley: University of California Press.].Google Scholar
  15. Habermas, Jürgen. 1989. The Theory of Communicative Action, Volume II, Lifeworld and System: A Critique of Functionalist Reason. Boston: Beacon Press.Google Scholar
  16. ——— 1993. L’espace public. Trans. Marc B. De Launay. Paris: Payot; [orig. Ger. Habermas, Jürgen. 1962. The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society. Trans. Thomas Burger. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. English Translation 1989.].Google Scholar
  17. ———. 2001. Por qué Europa necesita una constitución. New Left Review, No. 11. Madrid; [orig. Engl. Habermas, Jürgen (2001). Why Europe Needs A Constitution. New Left Review, No. 11, 5–26.].Google Scholar
  18. Hannerz, Ulf. 1986. Exploración de la Ciudad. México: Fondo de Cultura Económica; [orig. Engl. Hannerz, Ulf. 1980. Exploring the City: Inquiries Toward an Urban Anthropology. New York City: Columbia University Press.].Google Scholar
  19. Hedström, P., R. Sandell, and Ch. Stern. 2000. Mesolevel Networks and the Diffusion of Social Movements: The Case of the Swedish Social Democratic Party. American Journal of Sociology 106 (1): 145–172.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hill, Dilys M. 1994. Citizens and Cities Urban Policy in the 1990s. London: Harvester Wheatsheaf Publishing.Google Scholar
  21. Honneth, Axel. 1996. La dynamique sociale du mépris. D’où parle une théorie critique de la société? In Habermas, la raison, la critique, ed. Ch. Bouchindhomme and R. Rochlitz. Paris: Cerf.Google Scholar
  22. ———. 2000. La lutte pour la reconnaissance. Paris: Cerf.Google Scholar
  23. Isin, Engin F. 1999a. Introduction: Cities and Citizenship in a Global Age. Citizenship Studies 3(2): 165–171. London: Carfax Publishing.Google Scholar
  24. ———. 1999b. Citizenship, Class and the Global City. Citizenship Studies 3(2): 165–171. London: Carfax Publishing.Google Scholar
  25. Kymlicka, Will. 1996. Ciudadanía multicultural [Multicultural Citizenship]. Barcelona: Editorial Paidós Ibérica S.A.; [orig. Engl. Kymlicka, Will. 1996. Multicultural Citizenship: A Liberal Theory of Minority Rights. Oxford: Clarendon Press.].Google Scholar
  26. ———. 1999. Nacionalismo Minoritario dentro de las democracias liberales. In Ciudadanía justicia social, Identidad y participación, ed. García Soledad and Lukes Steven. Madrid: Editorial Siglo XXI.Google Scholar
  27. López Monjardín, A. 1986. La lucha por los ayuntamientos: una utopía viable. México: siglo XXI Editores e IIS-UNAM.Google Scholar
  28. ———. 1989. Las mil y una micro-rebeliones. Ciudades 2: 10–18.Google Scholar
  29. Mandel, Ernest. 1980. Long Waves of Capitalist Development. The Marxist Interpretation. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  30. Marshall, Thomas H. 1950. Citizenship and Social Class and Other Essays. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  31. McAdam, D., S. Tarrow, and Ch. Tilly. 2003 [2001]. Dynamics of Contention. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  32. Melucci, Alberto. 1996. Challenging Codes, Collective Action in the Information Age. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Mouffe, Chantal. 2003. La Paradoja Democrática. Barcelona: gedisa editorial [orig. Engl. Mouffe, Chantal. 2000. The Democratic Paradox. London: Verso.].Google Scholar
  34. Norris, Pippa, ed. 1999. Critical Citizens, Global Support for Democratic Governance. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  35. Roberts, Bryan. 1995. The Making of Citizens. London: Arnold.Google Scholar
  36. ———. 1999. Presentación. In Los veinte octubres mexicanos, ciudadanías e identidades, ed. Sergio Tamayo. México: Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana-Azcapotzalco [orig. Engl. Roberts, Bryan. 1994. Presentation. In The 20 Mexican Octobers: A Study of Citizenship and Social Movements, ed. Sergio Tamayo. Austin: University of Texas at Austin.].Google Scholar
  37. ———. 2010. ¿Ciudades manejables? La urbanización latinoamericana en el nuevo milenio. In Sistema Mundial y nuevas geografías, coords. Alfie Miriam, Iván Azuara, Carmen Bueno, Margarita Pérez Negrete, and Sergio Tamayo, 251–294. México: Universidad Iberoamericana, Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana, unidad Cuajimalpa y unidad Azcapotzalco.Google Scholar
  38. Rogers, Alisdair. 1995. Cinco de mayo and 15 January: Contrasting Situations in a Mixed Ethnic Neighbourhood. In The Urban Context. Ethnicity, Social Networks and Situational Analysis, dir. Alisdair Rogers, and Steven Vertovec. Oxford: Berg Publishers.Google Scholar
  39. Shafir, Gerson, ed. 1998. The Citizenship Debates. A Reader. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  40. Tamayo, Sergio. 1999. Los veinte octubres mexicanos, ciudadanías e identidades colectivas. (The Twenty Mexican Octobers). México: Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana, Azcapotzalco; [orig. Engl. Tamayo, Sergio. 1994. The 20 Mexican Octobers: A Study of Citizenship and Social Movements. Austin: University of Texas at Austin.].Google Scholar
  41. ———. 2000. La ciudadanía civil en el México de la transición: mujeres, derechos humanos y religión. Revista Mexicana de Sociología 62 (1): 61–97.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. ———. 2002. Los doce días que conmovieron la ciudad de México: impacto político y persuasión simbólica de los neozapatistas. Secuencia 54: 88–113.Google Scholar
  43. ———. 2010. Crítica de la Ciudadanía. México: UAM.Google Scholar
  44. ——— 2012. Cuando la sociología se encuentra con la etnografía. Una metodología multidimensional del análisis situacional. In Apropiación Política del Espacio Pública. Miradas etnográficas de las campañas electorales en México 2006, eds. Sergio Tamayo, y Nicolasa López-Saavedra. México: Instituto Federal Electoral IFE y Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana, Azcapotzalco.Google Scholar
  45. ———. 2016. Espacios y repertorios de la protesta. México: Red Mexicana de Estudios de los Movimientos Sociales; CONACYT; Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana, Azcapotzalco; Editorial Colofón.Google Scholar
  46. Tamayo, Sergio, and Nicolasa López-Saavedra. 2012. Apropiación Política del Espacio Pública. Miradas etnográficas de las campañas electorales en México 2006. México: Instituto Federal Electoral IFE y Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana, Azcapotzalco.Google Scholar
  47. Tamayo, Sergio, Nicolasa López-Saavedra, and Kathrin Wildner. 2015. Siluetas y contornos de un sufragio. México: Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana, unidad Azcapotzalco.Google Scholar
  48. Thompson, John B. 1993. Ideología y cultura moderna. Teoría crítica social en la era de la comunicación de masas. México: Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana, Xochimilco; [orig. Engl. Thompson, John B. 1990. Ideology and Modern Culture: Critical Social Theory in the Era of Mass Communication. Cambridge: Polity Press.].Google Scholar
  49. Tilly, Charles. 1995. Los movimientos sociales como agrupaciones históricamente específicas de actuaciones políticas. Sociológica 10 (28): 13–36. UAM/Azcapotzalco.Google Scholar
  50. Touraine, Alain. 1981. The Voice and the Eye: An Analysis of Social Movements. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  51. ———. 1988. Return of the Actor: Social Theory in Postindustrial Society. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  52. ———. 1993. Crítica de la Modernidad. México: Fondo de Cultura Económica.Google Scholar
  53. Voirol, O. 2003. L’espace public et les luttes pour la reconnaissance. De Habermas à Honneth. In Le public en action. Usages et limites de la notion d’espace public en sciences sociales, ed. C. Barril et al. Paris: L’Harmattan.Google Scholar
  54. Wacquant, Loïc. 2002. De l’idéologie á la violence symbolique: culture, classe et conscience chez Marx et Bourdieu. In Les Sociologies critiques du capitalisme, ed. Jean Lojkine. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, PUF.Google Scholar
  55. Wallerstein, Immanuell. 1987. World System Analysis. In Social Theory Today, ed. A. Giddens and J.H. Turner. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  56. Wildner, Kathrin. 2003. Zócalo – Die Mitte der Stadt Mexiko: Ethnographie eines Platzes. Berlin: Reimer.Google Scholar
  57. Wildner, Kathrin, and Sergio Tamayo. 2002. Orte der Globalisierung, eine architektonische und ethnologische Betrachtung der Stadt México. Asien, Afrika Lateinamerika 13: 251–268.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Open Access This chapter is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license and indicate if changes were made.

The images or other third party material in this chapter are included in the chapter's Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the chapter's Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder.

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sergio Tamayo
    • 1
  1. 1.Metropolitan Autonomous University, Campus AzcapotzalcoCiudad de MexicoMexico

Personalised recommendations