Tensions related to “Global Citizenship”



I helped organize a colloquium that took place yesterday and, thankfully, it can be considered a success.  In addition to it having been completed, the turnout was better than I expected and the discussion that ensued was quite engaging.  I’d say we had about 30-40 people present and while the Dean was not able to be present, the three other presenters did a very good job of tackling the issues presented from various perspectives and providing insight for all to grapple with.

One particularly interesting segment of the gathering was when my mentor and adviser, Dr. Carlos Alberto Torres, presented what he called “Tensions, Contradictions and Conundrums” related to Global Citizenship.  Listed in this order, although not presented in this order, were the following:

  1. Solidarity and differences between: Global Education, Civic Education, Global Citizenship Education, Planetarian Citizenship
  2. Citizenship and Globalization: Multiple Globalizations (neoliberal globalization; anti-globalization, hybrid cultures, human rights, war against terrorism/terrorist model
  3. Framework versus Emerging Perspectives: (measurement issues, meterics), UNESCO as an agitator, the legacy of UNESCO
  4. Dilemma of Liberal Democracies?: From subject to National State Citizenship to Global Citizenship
  5. What about value added?: of Global Citizenship (tension with nationalism and with religious fundamentalism)
  6. Decoupling Human Rights Politics from Imperialism: Golf War 1991, former Yugoslavia wars, Serbo-Croatia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Serbia and Montenegro, Rwanda, Afghanistan, Syria (?)
  7. Paradigmatic change of the discourse in education
  8. The role of life-long learning as opposed to classroom-based instruction

Each of these points were expounded on in detail and were followed by responses from the other panelists before opening the discussion up to the crowd.

As someone who was born in Grenada, a nation that was invaded by the United States, and raised in Berkeley, California, I have struggled with the idea of standing, facing a flag, putting my hand over my heart, and reciting words of “allegiance”.  For long enough I didn’t even understand the words, and when I did I became that much more adamant that I would NOT.  For this I have had my fair share of difficult moments and conversations with classmates, teachers, colleagues and others.  I’ve also faced hostile reactions like when I did not stand, put my hand over my heart or recite anything when the national anthem was sung at a St. John’s University basketball game in NY in 2002, months after the attack on the world trade towers.  When I reflect on experiences like those, I wonder about the tension between national loyalty and the notion of global citizenship.  It reminds me of the hostile nature of some of the more extreme, right-wing charged movements in the US that have led to the banning of ethnic studies, the hunting, inhumane treatment, and deportation of undocumented people, and the prison industrial complex that plagues this nation as a whole, but that thrives on predominantly Black and Latino lives and bodies.  What about the plight of disenfranchised/marginalized peoples in each nation?  How will we ensure that our causes remain relevant and prioritized?  At the same time, global citizenship may be the only solution for empowering and granting rights to people who would otherwise remain “stateless”, and in effect “rightless”, in the eyes of the states that they reside in. I’m thinking of the many refugees that have not been granted asylum and remain undocumented, migrants seeking better opportunities for themselves and their children, and others whose humanity is not honored by national governments worldwide.  For them, Global Citizenship may bring recognition of individual rights.  For these people, the issue is both urgent and important.  And this issue is directly related to the conflict between individual rights and cultural rights.  Not all “rights” are universal.  Some cultures are, simply put, in opposition when it comes to notions of what it means to be a human being and what humans should be and are entitled to.  The concept of global citizenship is perceived by many as a continuation of imperialism and the conquest of the European “west” over all others.

Where is the middle ground?  How do we resolve this tension, which is but one example from a list of the tensions related to Global Citizenship?


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