Sukanya Banerjee: On Citizenship and Orientalism

From Spectatorship, Race, and Citizenship

Though Sukanya Banerjee’s work focuses on the construction of imperial citizenship in Victorian-era literature, her emphasis on what she terms the “extra-legal dimensions of citizenship” has resonance in a contemporary moment in which the global and digital citizen claim rights beyond national borders and legal codes. As she asks in this interview, what if the starting point for studies of citizenship was not the nation-state, but a trans-imperial perspective instead? Could such an approach encourage methodologies that disaggregate citizenship from nationalism, and examine it from current transnational contexts? As Banerjee has demonstrated in her writing, examining citizenship within the imperial context not only illuminates how it was used as a tool of state control, but paradoxically allows us to see how it was simultaneously deployed by critics of empire to contest the partialities, double standards, and inconsistencies of colonial rule. These contestations were often articulated through the highly visual modes of self-presentation and self-realization: representations that spotlighted the failures of Orientalism and might now offer a sustaining force for a critical and theoretical engagement with the demands, deliveries, and promises of transnational citizenship.

September 11, 2017


Curated by

Gabrielle Moser