Survival as Citizenship, or Citizenship as Survival? Imagined and Transient Political Groups in Urban China
Is it the quest for survival, rather than the quest for citizenship per se, that drives enactments of citizenship? This chapter examines the complex relationship between survival and citizenship through a longitudinal case study of a rural migrant workers’ NGO in peri-urban Beijing, finding that survival and citizenship are virtually inseparable: one often follows, or is seen to follow, from the other. Contesting citizenship brings political risk. In this case, the survival strategies taken by the NGO to hedge against such risk cause people with diverse natural loyalties to enact citizenship-by-extension-of-citizenship-to-others. The result is an enlarged “political group” with a particularly high level of political potency.