Towards a social psychology of citizenship? Introduction to the Special Issue



The concept of citizenship is currently the subject of extensive, and often heated, debate on the part of policy makers and social scientists. Many of the key concerns encapsulated in the idea of citizenship—collective identity, solidarity, pro-social behaviour, group boundaries, intra and intergroup conflict—also represent longstanding concerns on the part of social and community psychologists. However, at present, very little psychological theory or research directly addresses the subject of citizenship. The aim of this Special Issue is to explore how the construct of citizenship might contribute to social psychological understandings of social conflict and solidarity and, conversely, to consider how existing social psychological theories and methods might contribute to contemporary understandings of citizenship. The authors of the six articles in the Special Issue apply a range of theoretical perspectives (self-categorization theory, social identity theory, rhetorical psychology, the theory of social representations) and methods (experiments, surveys, interviews, ethnography) to examine situated understandings of citizenship in a variety of domains (civic and political participation, immigration attitudes, minority identities, nationalism). Despite their different approaches, the authors display a common concern to recognize complexity, contradiction and contestability as inherent, and often productive, features of the everyday construction and performance of citizenship. As a consequence, social psychological perspectives may have the potential to restore the damaged reputation of the citizen currently apparent in much policy and social scientific discourse. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.