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Honoursmodule: Promises and Pitfalls of Citizenship


prof. dr. J.W. Duyvendak, dr. M. Hurenkamp

Entry requirements 

For 2nd or 3rd year honours students only. 

Learning Objectives

At the end of the course:

  • Able to explain why and how citizenship is a core social science concept;
  • Able to distinguish between different causal mechanisms thought to lead to “good citizenship”;
  • Able to understand the differences between “political”, “cultural” and “social” citizenship in politics and policies;
  • Able to translate citizenship concepts in a professional environment, explain among for instance teachers, social workers or policy makers what the promises and pitfalls are when one uses citizenship as a goal.


When you argue with your neighbour about his loud music; or when you express your disappointment in a conversation with friends because your favourite politician broke all her promises; or when you refuse to shop in a supermarket where they sell factory-farmed chickens; or if you organise a committee to oppose the board of the university; or if you claim the right to sing the national anthem before class starts – in all these instances, you are acting as a citizen. To articulate how relatively free individuals shape their lives in relation to other individuals as well as to communities, is unimaginable without a serious conception of citizenship. Of course, you also act as a citizen when you vote or pay taxes. But these are the obvious acts and in fact citizenship is much more ingrained in our daily lives than we tend to realise. it is in fact the structure we live by. And an attractive structure it is. Claims on citizenship are abundant – on rights (to social services, to freedom of speech) and on duties (the banning of religious symbols, the necessity to work). Minorities of all feather claim a stake in citizenship, making it a permanently contested topic in everyday politics.

‘Promises and pitfalls of citizenship’ is about the unavoidable, inspiring and disciplining language of political, cultural and social belonging; a language about being represented in parliament or not, about protesting and feeling at home, about holidays or religious practices, about protection against losing your job or falling ill. This language is old, as old as any religion, but a bit more agile and lively. What is a citizen? At the very least, it is a person with pride. A Greek from ancient times might say: someone free, someone who is not a slave. But a citizen is also a busy person, someone active. A medieval townsman might say: a ‘burgher’ is someone operating his own business. And a citizen knows she has rights, that she can count on a certain amount of protection. Free, busy, protected: a ‘citizen is a full member of the community’, as 20th century theorist Thomas Marshall would have it. And we make laws and maintain practices to guarantee this full membership, as we have been doing over the last two millennia.

What follows is that there is no other concept that can drive the aspirations of autonomy and well-being while at the same time remaining practical, tangible and visible for policymakers and professionals. The pathway from abstract notions such as liberty, equality and brotherhood to policy strategies and visions of emancipation runs, in principle, via citizenship. It runs via ‘social citizenship’ when we talk about participation and the welfare state; via ‘political citizenship’ when we talk about representation and political parties; via ‘cultural citizenship’ when we focus on immigration, integration and national identity; via ‘active citizenship’ when policymakers have free rein; and it runs, last but not least, via ‘post-human citizenship’ when we try to figure out our current relationship to animals or even inanimate objects such as robots.

Citizenship sits at the crossroads between law and politics on the one hand and sociology and philosophy on the other hand. Here, the empirical (how things are) and the normative (how things should be) invariably go hand in hand. Just as one cannot peel the layers of somebody’s personality as if he or she were an onion, and just as a heart has two chambers, one cannot do away with the rights connected to citizenship and expect a sense of duty to remain intact.

Citizenship is composed of rights (to talk and think and learn and listen and rest) and duties (to uphold the law, to vote, to participate); of action (on the street or behind your computer) and protection (at home or in public space, for instance); of belonging (in the neighbourhood or the city or the nation) and exclusion (from the state or the street or the culture); of equality (of income or health care) and difference (of opinion or culture).

Class contents

The course has three parts. The first part is an introductory lecture that introduces the course and the idea of citizenship. The second part of the course introduces the major 20th century conceptions of citizenship. The third part looks at current contestations of citizenship.



Min/max participants



Starts in September till end of November on Tuesdays 18.00 - 20.00h. (Exact information will be displayed on Datanose soon.)


Registration is possible for 2nd year (of higher) students participating in an Honours programme from  June 6, 2019 10.00 till  June 11, 2019 23.00 through the online registration form that will appear on Honoursmodules IIS.

Placement will be at random. If there are still spots open after the application deadline, students will still be able to register.

For questions: please contact 

Honoursmodule: Promises and Pitfalls of Citizenship
Mode Honours programme
Credits 6 ECTS,
Language of instruction English
Starts in September