Citizenship Futures: 'the Politics Of Hope' In India And Europe

Lead Research Organisation: University of York
Department Name: Politics


Hope for the future, we contend, remain central to the political imaginations of socially excluded people. However, the relationship between hope, social exclusion and citizenship are poorly understood. Much of the existing literature primes scholars to infer that social exclusion spawns hopelessness, fear and mistrust. Policy analysts point to the paucity of 'aspirations' among the socially excluded as a key factor for the perpetuation of poverty and inequality. Against this literature, by underscoring 'the politics of hope' (Appadurai, 2013: 129) harboured by socially excluded people, the proposed research will provide insights into the ways in which they imagine their 'citizenship futures'.

It seeks to analytically and empirically investigate the 'politics of hope' among socially excluded people. The project will achieve this by ethnographically documenting the political subjectivities of socially excluded people in the United Kingdom, France and the Indian State of Maharashtra and thereby uncovering the ensemble of interpretations, emotions and practices that constitute 'the politics of hope'. By examining the 'politics of hope', the project will deepen our understanding of the ways in which socially excluded people imagine their 'citizenship futures. It will do so by straddling disciplinary boundaries between the social sciences and the arts and humanities.

Project objective: The central aim of this research project is to develop theoretically and empirically the concept of 'citizenship futures'.
RQ1: What 'hopes' to socially excluded people harbour for their futures, in the context of the social relations of power to which they are subjected? RQ1 will be addressed through comparative ethnographies in London, Paris and Mumbai.
RQ2: What institutional factors shape people's 'hopes' for the future? RQ2 will be addressed through a historical-institutionalist analysis of political narratives in the UK, France and the Indian State of Maharashtra.

For the purpose of analysis, we propose to adapt Zipin et al (2015), whose research on education (drawing on Bourdieu and Appadurai) usefully theorise three ways in which hopes are constituted through social-cultural processes. Doxic hopes are 'dominant norms about worthy futures' circulating through media and policy discourse. Habituated hopes are embodied dispositions grounded in biographic-historical conditions (habitus). Emergent hope are 'future-tending impulses' 'emerging among young people as their lives apprehend the present-becoming-future'.

The qualitative data will be systematically generated, answering the research questions as directly as possible. NVivo will be used to organise and share data (transcripts, field notes and other materials).

The comparative approach proposed under the rubric of the project will make three further contributions to knowledge-production. One, by bringing the UK, France and India within a common frame of investigation and analysis, the project will blur the boundaries between such categories as 'developed' and 'developing' countries, 'Global North' and 'Global South', and other such binaries that hinder an appreciation of the shared problems faced by people across these scholarly silos. Second, by recruiting an India-based researcher to conduct ethnographic research on poverty in the UK, the project will contribute to emerging methodological discussions on 'reversing the gaze'. Third, by adopting a collaborative approach to ethnography, the project will encourage the collaboration of researchers across national contexts and their interlocutors in the production of ethnographic texts.

The research will be conducted by a multidisciplinary team offering complementary expertise. The in-depth ethnography favoured by sociologists and anthropologists will be complemented by innovative historical-institutional analysis developed by political scientists.

Planned Impact

Who will benefit from this project
1). Governments (national, regional and municipal),
2). Actors in civil society focused on addressing social exclusion, poverty and inequality,
3). UN agencies (UNICEF, ILO and UNDP); and
4). Development partners (World Bank and OECD).
5). Academic researchers involved in this project
6). Academic researchers researching themes social exclusion, urbanism, historical institutionalism, comparative politics, ethnography and political aesthetics will particularly benefit from our research
7). Academic researchers interested in comparative and collaborative ethnography, especially those which 'reverse the gaze'
8). Socially excluded people in urban areas of mega cities
How will they benefit?
1). Enhanced appreciation of 'hopes' harboured by socially excluded people
2). Improved understanding of 'hope' and the ways in which shapes 'ethics of possibilities'
3). Greater awareness of the connections between ''ethics of possibilities' and people's imaginations of the future
4). Better appreciation of the connections between imaginations of the future and imaginations of citizenship
4). Ethnographic methods of researching hope, possibilities, and imaginations of 'citizenship futures'
5). Historical and institutional factors that shape people's hope
6). Research capacity building in collaborative and comparative ethnographies that 'reverse the gaze'
What will be done to ensure that they benefit?
Our data will provide succinct summaries of the hopes harboured by socially excluded people, their vision of the future, and the strategies they propose to achieve these. With their permission, we will provide these summaries to activists in civil society, municipal officials and practitioners in NGOs and foundations who might be interested in working with them.

In the medium term, we will establish a project website to disseminate the core project findings. The website will allow users to navigate about the project easily and thereby inform them about project progress. More importantly, the content of the website will present the human dimension of social exclusion and provide insights to the public on the 'hopes' harboured by socially excluded people. We will also invite their interlocutors to post blogs or notes on the website, expressing their 'hopes' for the 'future'.

Working papers documenting findings at each stage of the project will be published on the project website. We will also use alternative sharper formats such as blog posts, 2-page summaries and infographics to communicate important key points to a wider audience in a timely way. We will use social media for further dissemination and engagement.

In the short term, project researchers will convene meetings with community-level stakeholders throughout the course of the project. The purpose of these meetings will be to share project findings from other locations so as to convey to them the sorts of emergent hopes harboured by people who share similar circumstances. By facilitating the exchange of stories about possible futures, the project researchers will enable community-level stakeholders to consider their hopes in the light of those harboured by others.

Throughout the project, we will publicize the research in the UK, France and India including through national and local media, policy-focused interviews and personal contacts.

We take public engagement very seriously. In this vein, we will curate and organise exhibitions of photographs from the project will be displayed to members of the public to inform them about persisting social exclusions coinciding with unprecedented concentration of wealth. Postcards of photographs will be printed and shared with interested members of the public.

Findings will also be presented widely to policy audiences. Articles will be submitted to journals oriented towards the policy community.


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Title Everyday practices checklist 
Description This checklists helps us undertake direct observations of the everyday practices of the people living in the neighbourhoods selected for this study. Particular focus will be directed towards their: 1). Involvement in 'associations' (Breviglieri & Trom 2003; Lazar, 2013; Siblot 2006; Mariot 2006; Braconnier 2007; and Roy, 2018). Such associations could include formal organisations such as neighbourhood committees, school committees (if they are based in the neighbourhood) and/ or housing associations. More often, though, associations are contingent, such as the gathering of parents of children going to a school in the neighbourhood or a collective of people coming together to solve a minor problem or a group of young adults hanging out around a local bench catching up with one another. The research team will document the interactions in these associations with specific attention to the ways in which perspectives are advanced, decisions are taken, and/ or opinions prevented from being expressed. 2). 'Consumption' practices (Appadurai, 1996; Zhang and Ong, 2008; Rofel, 2007; Holston, 2008; Miller, 2005; and Ferguson, 2012). The research team will document the range of people's consumption practices in the selected neighbourhoods. These practices could include the purchase of 'ordinary' everyday items that are deemed essential for people's survival. They could also include the purchase and display of 'branded' items, that are typically associated with the better-off populations. In documenting such consumption practices, the project team will consider the 'hopes' associated with the product and remain sceptical of arguments that consider consumption as morally inferior, irrational, superficial and a less privileged state of the productive cycle. 3). Ways of being 'present' in public spaces (Chatterjee, 2004; Bayat, 2011; Ferguson, 2015; Widlok, 2012; Makhulu, 2012; Roy, 2018; and Simone, 2016). Scholars have directed attention to the ways in which socially excluded people claim the public spaces by being present. They not only eke out their lives and livelihoods in public spaces, but also engage in social and cultural intercourse. In this vein, the research team will examine the ways in which people assert their claims to the public space by strolling, squatting and sitting often alongside strangers, thereby also forging identities and enlarging solidarities. 4). Discussions in formal forums (Manesbridge, 1983; Baiocchi, 2005; Rao and Sanyal, 2008; Appadurai, 2013). The project team will observe discussions in public forums such as town hall meetings, neighbourhood assemblies and deliberations with activists and organisations in civil society. In doing so, researchers will document the ways in which issues are raised and/ or prevented from being expressed, decisions are taken and people interact with one another. In documenting interactions, project researchers will note behaviours of assertion, deference and indifference. Underpinning these observations will be a consistent attention to the hopes harboured by people for their future. These discussions will be analysed to gain granular insights into the 'ethics of possibility' that underpin imaginations of citizenship. 
Type Of Material Model of mechanisms or symptoms - human 
Year Produced 2020 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Note yet 
Title In-depth interview checklist 
Description Indepth interviews enable the project to delve into the ways in which interviewees interpret the possibilities open to them for the future. The interviews will elicit interviewees' interpretations of ongoing political and social changes and their perceived implications for their future prospects. A specific focus of the interviews will be to explore interviewees' relationships with other people. One aspect of this focus entails understanding interviewees' actual and normative engagements with people known to them, such as neighbours, friends, co-workers, acquaintances and family members. Another aspect of this focus involves attending to interviewees' interactions- both actual and possible- with strangers, such as co-passengers next to whom they might sit on public transport, vendors and/ or customers with whom they might bargain in market places, and individuals with whom they might meet in public spaces such as government offices, schools, banks, cafés and eateries, parks and sidewalks/ footpaths. As a method that enables researchers to "generate data which give an authentic insight into people's experiences" (Sliverman, 1993: 91), in-depth interviews will be particularly relevant. Through these interviews, project researchers will not only glean the 'meanings' with which interviewees imbue their relationships with acquaintances as well as strangers, but also the range of 'feelings' evoked by them. 
Type Of Material Model of mechanisms or symptoms - human 
Year Produced 2020 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Not yet 
Title Life history checklist 
Description Life histories enable us to examine the temporal and spatial dimensions of people's lives in the context of the hopes they harbour for their future. Life histories are of particular interest to this project because they "reveal juxtapositions of social contexts through a succession of narrated individual experiences that may be obscured in the structural study of processes as such" (Marcus, 1995: 110). Through a fine-grained presentation of continuities and changes in our interviewees' lives, the project will elucidate the 'ethics of possibility' that have informed their lives. "An appreciation of the 'ethics of possibility' will entail a detailed discussion of the personal dilemmas and social circumstances that shaped individual decisions. The decisions taken by individuals and/ or taken on their behalf will be documented, as will their evaluations of the outcomes of those decisions. As such, the life histories assembled for this project will provide a granular understanding of people's life trajectories, and the ways in which these trajectories have been shaped by the relationships into which they are embedded. These understandings will be situated alongside interviewees' own 'interpretations' of their trajectories as well as the 'feelings' evoked by these trajectories. It is likely that while the project will be particularly interested in the 'hopes' harboured by interviewees, it will not ignore the range of emotions expressed by them while they evaluate and interpret their life trajectories." 
Type Of Material Model of mechanisms or symptoms - human 
Year Produced 2020 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Not yet 
Title Popular aesthetics checklist 
Description The popular aesthetics checklist will enable us to assemble an inventory of the popular aesthetics within which socially excluded people in the select study neighbourhoods are embedded. This work package will entail directing attention to: 1). Literary outputs that interest our interlocutors from the neighbourhoods under study, including texts (Chambers, 2004) and music (Caldeira, 2006). In compiling these outputs, the research team will carefully note the opinions offered by their interlocutors and be particularly appreciative of the 'hopes' kindled by such products. 2). Public works of art in the study localities (Ianelli and Musaro, 2017; and Wilmer, 2012). Such works of art might include graffiti, murals and posters and banners. Anita Weiss (2017) writes about visual art and poetry as methods of countering violent extremism in Pakistan, these imaginative forms 'affect people's mindsets, enabling them to make choices to stand up for their society'. The researchers for this project will delineate their interlocutors' interpretations of the public works of art in the light of the 'hopes' that might be awoken by these projects. 3). Memorials in and around the study localities (Taylor, 2000; Ranciere, 2004; Virmani, 2015; and Narayan, 2011). The project researchers will seek to examine the ways in which their interlocutors make meanings of memorials, with a particular focus on their engagements with statues of prominent personalities. In doing this, they will explore the 'hope' with which their interlocutors imbue such monuments as statues. 4). Films consumed by our interlocutors (Dickey, 1993; Ang, 2003; Kraidy and Murphy, 2003; and Rao, 2007). In contrast with the prevailing textual approaches to analysing films, the project team members will focus on the analysis of films offered by their interlocutors in the study localities. Throughout the documentation of popular aesthetics, project researchers will remain attentive to the hopes harboured by socially excluded people for their future. They will aim to illuminate the 'ethics of possibility' that underpin people's imaginations of citizenship. 
Type Of Material Model of mechanisms or symptoms - human 
Year Produced 2020 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Not yet 
Description Research collaboration with CNRS 
Organisation National Center for Scientific Research (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique CNRS)
Country France 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Collaborative and comparative ethnography on citizenship futures
Collaborator Contribution Collaborative and comparative ethnography in Paris
Impact Ethnographic fieldwork commenced
Start Year 2019
Description Research collaboration with IIT- Bombay 
Organisation Indian Institute of Technology Bombay
Country India 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Comparative and collaborative ethnography on citizenship futures
Collaborator Contribution Comparative and collaborative ethnography in Mumbai
Impact Ethnographic fieldwork commenced. Historical-institutional analysis ongoing,
Start Year 2019