Brandzel, Amy L. “Against Citizenship: The Violence of the Normative”, (Dissident Feminisms), University of Illinois Press, 2016.
Is Citizenship Redeemable?
In “Against Citizenship”, author Amy L. Brandzel shows that despite numerous activists and scholars appealing for rights, inclusion, and justice in the name of “citizenship” there is nothing redeemable about citizenship and nothing worth salvaging or sustaining in the name of “community,” practice, or belonging.
She sees “citizenship as a violent dehumanizing mechanism that brings about the comparative devaluing of human lives”. Her argument is that “whenever we work on behalf of citizenship, whenever we work towards including more types of peoples under its reign, we inevitably reify the violence of citizenship against nonnormative others”. Brandzel’s focuses on three legal case studies–same-sex marriage law, hate crime legislation, and Native Hawaiian sovereignty and racialization and then exposes how citizenship confounds and obscures the mutual processes of settler colonialism, racism, sexism, and heterosexism. By doing so, Brandzel maintains that citizenship requires anti-intersectionality— strategies that deny the mutuality and contingency of race, class, gender, sexuality and nation–and how, as often happens, the progressive left activists and scholars follow suit.
This is a book that will ultimately be regarded as one of the most important books in queer and feminist theory of its generation. I realize that this statement is bold Brandzel is deftly skilled at bridging feminist and queer studies with critical ethnic studies and critical Indigenous studies that present a model for the kind of intersectional analysis needed to understand and challenge the violence of normativities.
Brandzel explores queer, feminist, Indigenous and critical race studies to expose the irredeemable violence of U.S. citizenship. By bringing together case studies rarely considered within the same frame, she shows the kind of intersectional alliance building that is required. The ideas here can be used “as a springboard for building coalitions that reject faith in citizenship and instead create other kinds of affinities and attachments.”
For those who are invested in challenging the limits of inclusion that lie within the normative frameworks of U.S. law, this is a must read. Brandzel documents the violence of anti-intersectional politics, epistemologies, and citizenship practices that exist within cases of hate crime legislation, same-sex marriage, and the tensions between civil rights and indigenous rights.
Brandzel presents a incisive, critical analysis of normativity that is crucial to understanding how power works today. We see clearly that multiple bodies of scholarship demonstrate how the anti-intersectional strategies of the state work against any real address of inequality. The book
reframes what it means to do transnational intersectional analysis and adds to our collective scholarly understanding of transnational critique by tracing settler colonial forces through nuanced examinations of gay marriage law, We are challenged to consider what is required for unsettling, or denaturalizing, the” settler logics of normative citizenship’s racialization, gendering, and sexualizing”. What is most threatening to normative citizenship, occurs when we forge and exercise accountable alliances. By reading this we can more easily understand critiques of the concepts of citizenship (and understandings of sovereignty) from feminist, queer, critical Indigenous, and legal perspectives.
Brandzel presents her arguments clearly and whether we agree or not, we are provoked to think about what she has to say. Most of us have never thought about citizenship in the way that it is presented here and it is time that we did.