The promotion of 'inclusive citizenship', through which the
disadvantaged engage in collective struggles for justice and
recognition, has been attracting growing attention as a solution to
chronic poverty. This paper problematises this formulation by drawing on
a case of landless squatters (sukumbasis) in Western Nepal. Underlying
the notion of 'inclusive citizenship' is a teleological view assuming
that it is attained when social exclusion is countervailed through the
extension of full citizenship to marginal groups. This orderly worldview
is flawed, however, in that it disregards the intermingling between
exclusion and inclusion. The case study shows that the sukumbasis'
collective actions were bound to draw a line between 'us' and 'them'
thereby privileging some squatters over 'immanent others' who are not
entirely outside the realm of association, but are positioned as those
lacking the properties required of fully-fledged citizens. Moreover,
while claiming rights as citizens, the sukumbasis were ironically
compelled to conform to the dominant social norms which had placed them
at a disadvantage. However, these 'unintended' outcomes arising from
the double-edged nature of the sukumbasis' struggles did not subjugate
them outright to constrained positions, but also played into their
The arbitrary nature of group formation, demarcating the outside from
the inside, allowed 'immanent others' to question this and to put
forward claims for inclusion. Moreover, the disciplinary power contained
within the notion of citizenship itself not only imposed particular
norms of civility on the sukumbasis, but also served as leverage for
them to gain due recognition as citizens. It is therefore crucial for
proponents of 'inclusive citizenship' to heed the contingent and
unpredictable nature of collective actions. Contrary to a view commonly
held by advocates of 'inclusive citizenship', assetlessness and the
denial of voices do not necessarily go hand in hand. To avoid imposing
outsiders' presumptions on the uncertainty and complexity surrounding
the lives of the deprived, an 'ascending' approach is called for to
delve into the micro-level inconspicuous practices of the chronically
poor. Outside agencies should seek to devise strategies that capitalise
on and make up for the opportunities and the limitations arising from
their day-to-day struggles.
‘Inclusive citizenship’ for the chronically poor: exploring the inclusion-exclusion nexus in collective struggles. CPRC Working Paper 96, Manchester: IDPM/Chronic Poverty Research Centre (CPRC), UK, ISBN: 1-904049-95-8, iv + 24 pp.
‘Inclusive citizenship’ for the chronically poor: exploring the inclusion-exclusion nexus in collective struggles. CPRC Working Paper 96.