Political Membership: Transnational Histories

A three-year collaboration between Princeton University and the University of Oxford

How did people conceptualize their membership in political communities as the language of citizenship gained increasing currency around the world?


As part of the new Oxford-Princeton project on Political Membership: transnational histories

Princeton University and the University of Oxford are excited to announce a three-year collaborative programme exploring the history of political membership, citizenship and state obligations. Through a series of workshops involving close interaction between senior academics and graduate students from both universities, we aim to examine how people have conceptualized their membership in political communities broadly between the 18th and 20th centuries, and to understand why the language of citizenship has increasingly gained currency in the modern world.

The workshops will be attended by graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and senior academics from Princeton and Oxford, and will therefore be an outstanding opportunity to showcase work to the community of historians from two major universities. We also aim to foster more permanent links and networks between graduate students in both institutions and are very keen to encourage a longer-term commitment with this project. To enable greater depth of discussion, the workshop papers will be circulated beforehand.

Narratives of globalization often assume that modern concepts of citizenship were fashioned in Western Europe and projected outwards to the rest of the world. Our first workshop, in Oxford on 15-17 June, aims to interrogate this claim, and pays particular attention to how conflict has affected notions of governance and the provision of social welfare. We expect our participants, who are graduate students (at all stages of research) and early-career researchers adopting a transnational perspective, to address one or more of the following questions:

  • What roles have non-European parts of the world played in shaping concepts of political membership?
  • How far have societies amalgamated new concepts of citizenship into their own political identities, creating more hybrid or syncretic forms?
  • Under what circumstances are states expected to provide for the welfare of their subjects?
  • How far have ideas of welfarism, or of the state’s obligations to its citizens, been informed by transnational norms or phenomena, or indigenous understandings and expectations?
  • Have non-European concepts of political membership had reciprocal effects on Western Europe itself?
  • How have wars shaped ideas of political membership and reconstituted ideas of international governance?