Accepted Paper:

An approach to citizenship in postcolonial societies  
Barbara Waldis (University of Neuch√Ętel)

Paper short abstract:

Cultural diversity often seems a danger to national cohesion. This idea is questioned by means of citizenship education text books in postcolonial Mauritius, where multicultural reality is constitutive to the settlement and colonial history is coined by French, Creole, British and Indian impact.

Paper long abstract:

Current debates on national citizenship in Europe consider so called cultural differences one of the most serious dangers to internal national cohesion. This might stem from historical development of European Nation states, fostering the ideology of the one dominant cultural nation. Cultural diversity seems an anti-thesis to national identity and the quote of John Stuart Mill (1958) some fifty years ago seems still all too valid: "Free institutions are next to impossible in a country made up of different nationalities. Among a people without fellow-feeling, especially if they read and speak different languages, the united public opinion necessary to the working of representative government, cannot exist".

The paper discusses this idea from the vantage point of the postcolonial Republic of Mauritius. Multicultural demography is constitutive to the existence of this country and its colonial history is coined by French, Creole, British, and Indian influence. What are the characteristics of the developed model of citizenship in this context? What positions and functions do so called cultural differences take in official citizenship discourses? What happens to the ideal of national identity? What can one learn for a general theory of citizenship in multicultural societies? These issues will be exemplified by census categories, their transformation by actors and their presentation in citizenship education text books of Mauritius. They illustrate the official model of citizenship as it exists in tensions to social reality and in negotiations within the political process between state, collective and individual actors in the public, social and private sphere.

Panel W029
Anthropology of citizenship(s): comparing conceptions and analysing changes from Europe