Ecological Citizenship: An Annotated Bibliography

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Agamben, Giorgio. Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press, 1995.

Worthwhile for those interested in citizenship and the ways in which it functions in a fascistic society. Agamben’s book is useful in discussing places like Guantanamo Bay and ICE detention centers. There is also significant mention of biology and how that discipline fits into politics (biopolitics). Informs how reducing/comparing humans with non-human life can have sinister implications in political life.

Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origins and Spread of Nationalism, rev. ed. London and New York: Verso, 2016 (originally published 1983).

This a highly influential book in fields like cultural studies. The text discusses nationalism. For Anderson, nationalism is an artifact of culture, and he investigates this historically. Reveals how media—specifically print media written in a common language—contribute to the illusion that citizens share a common national identity.

Aristotle. Politics.

A work from one of Ancient Greece’s famous philosophers. Available in many translations and editions and in the public domain. Discussions of citizenship come in book III, and much of Aristotle’s work on this subject intersects with discussing community.

Asafu-Adjaye, John, Linus Blomqvist, Stewart Brand, et al. “An Ecomodernist Manifesto.” April 2015.

Ecomodernism is a recent trend in environmental thinking during the past 20 years. It emphasizes human separation from nature through factors like technology and urban living in order to protect nature from the deleterious effects of human activity. It functions as one framework in which citizenship might be enacted in the Anthropocene. This Manifesto is relevant as a reference to the article in this bibliography which that analyzes how citizenship would function in an ecomodernist framework.

Attfield, Robin. “Global Citizenship and the Global Environment.” In Global Citizenship: A Critical Reader, edited by Nigel Dower and John Williams. Edinburgh, UK: Edinburgh University Press, 2002, 191–200.

This article raises questions about extending citizenship to animals. There must be global civil society for global citizenship. The environment is relational and shared. Pursuing local values can be in tension with the global community. Community involves responsibilities in addition to relationships. Global civil society involves large organizations like the Red Cross, Catholic Church, and FIFA.

Auden, W.H. “The Unknown Citizen.” 1939. Available in Auden’s Collected Poems, many anthologies, and online.

This is a poem that describes a model citizen from the point of view of the administrative state bureaucracy. The irony of the poem reflects the political tensions of the 1930s. The model citizen is written as male and is given a number rather than a name. There may be value in showing citizenship as it is understood in a particular time period.

Bell, Derek R. “Liberal Environmental Citizenship.” Environmental Politics 14, no. 2 (2005): 179–94.

A critique of citizenship as it is understood by liberalism, a framework that conceptualizes the environment and our relationship to it in a way that only understands the environment as human property.

Berlant, Lauren. “Citizenship.” In Keywords for American Cultural Studies, edited by Bruce Burgett and Glenn Hendler. New York and London: New York University Press, 2014, 41–45.

This article is the contribution on citizenship to a book that employs the methods of Raymond Williams’s influential book, Keywords. This approach seeks to unpack the definitions of words in specific cultures, paying close attention to their historical and etymological influences. This sort of method understands language as protean, alive, and sensitive to context.

Brenner, Frederic. Citizens Protesting Anti-Semitic Acts, Billings, Montana. 1994. Gelatin silver print. Art Institute of Chicago.

Although this print doesn’t deal with ecological matters, it still strikes me as an expression of citizenship. People have come together to fight for a unifying cause, and I think that this suggests that citizenship is not an atomistic concept but is intertwined with and is expressed in concurrence with others.

Cagle, Susie. “‘Bees, Not Refugees’: The Environmentalist Roots of Anti-Immigrant Bigotry.” The Guardian, August 16, 2019.

This article is a reaction to the El Paso shooting. It mentions John Tanton, an environmentalist and white nationalist. Ecofascists, like the El Paso shooter, associate migrations with environmental destruction.

Coulthard, Glen Sean. Red Skin, White Masks: Rejecting the Colonial Politics of Recognition. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2014.

Applies Frantz Fanon to issues of citizenship in Native American contexts. There are also some discussions of reciprocity in this text.

Crist, Eileen. “On the Poverty of Our Nomenclature.” Environmental Humanities 3 (2013): 129–47.

This is another article that can be helpful for thinking about the Ecomodernist/Dark Mountain Project divide when it comes to the Anthropocene. Crist doesn’t discuss citizenship, but the article nonetheless attacks Ecomodernist optimism concerning human domination/management of the Earth. Crist wants to move to a sense of the good that includes the broader web of life in which humans are included.

The Dark Mountain Project. “Uncivilisation: The Dark Mountain Manifesto.” 2009.

The Dark Mountain Project represents the oppositional side to the ecomodernists. The two sides are possible frameworks for life (such as how citizenship is understood) in the Anthropocene, but this one is much more raw and pessimistic than the ecomodernists, in the tradition of a thinker like Edward Abbey.

Dobson, Andrew. Citizenship and the Environment. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2003.

Dobson’s book looks to move beyond liberal and civic republican citizenship. One of the interesting things, I think, is his move to incorporate feminist philosophy and show how traditionally “feminine” virtues could be helpful for a new kind of citizenship that he deems “postcosmopolitanism.”

Donaldson, Sue, and Will Kymlicka. Zoopolis: A Political Theory of Animal Rights. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2011.

A useful book in understanding how animals fit into citizenship discourse. Divides animals into wild, domestic, and liminal animals and investigates our obligations to each of these groupings.

Engel, J. Ronald. “Civic Community in a Garden: Reflections on a Theology of Democratic Citizenship.” Minding Nature2, no. 1 (2009): 17–21.

Discusses citizenship in cities and the need for it to have a spiritual dimension. Citizenship and a healthy relationship with non-human life are embedded in religion and culture. Suggests that the universal principles that accompany religion can and must manifest in action toward the civic good.

———. “The Faith of Democratic Ecological Citizenship.” Hastings Center Report Special Supplement 28, no. 6 (1998): S31–S41.

Outlines what democratic ecological citizenship is, suggesting it is a sort of civic faith that affirms interdependence of all religious and cultural faiths.

Evans, Hugh. “What Does It Mean to Be a Citizen of the World? TED, May 4, 2016.

Speaker discusses the issues with long-term global citizenship action. Citizenship is something done together and demands action. Suggests that citizenship must be conceived as global rather than local, a departure from some of the other views of other sources in this bibliography.

Flader, Susan. “Building Conservation on the Land: Aldo Leopold and The Tensions of Professionalism and Citizenship.” In Reconstructing Conservation: Finding Common Ground, second edition, edited by Ben A. Minteer and E. Manning Robert. Washington, DC: Island Press, 2003, 115–32.

Looks at Leopold’s thinking on professionalism and citizenship with attention to the impact of the land ethic. This includes helpful biographical information about Leopold and discusses citizenship in clear language, accessible to a general readership.

Gringlas, Sam. “India Passes Controversial Citizenship Bill That Would Exclude Muslims.” NPR, December 11, 2019.

This discusses recent developments in the law controlling citizenship status in India. Citizenship in India is connected with religion in this case, and the law is now being used to exclude Muslims. Perhaps this can speak to the “nastier” side of citizenship, that it is a political concept which can be used for harm/discrimination.

Heltne, Paul. “Upheavals of Thought and the Path to Citizenship.” Minding Nature 2, no. 1 (2009): 22–24.

A book review of Martha Nussbaum’s Upheavals of Thought. See the entry on that work.

Kemmis, Daniel. Community and the Politics of Place. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1990.

This is by a former mayor of Missoula, Montana. It talks about citizenship—especially civic republicanism—along with the difficulties it faces and the advocacy for it by early American figures like Thomas Jefferson. This book is useful for thinking about citizenship on the local level and how to actively participate in politics in pursuit of a common good.

Kenis, Anneleen. “Ecological Citizenship and Democracy: Communitarian versus Agonistic Perspectives.” Environmental Politics 25, no. 6 (2016): 949–70.

Main framing here is that ecological citizenship will avoid an individualized approach to environmentalism that relies upon guilt and fear. Ecological citizenship moves away from addressing climate change in solely economic terms (e.g., individual consumers, homo economicus, etc.). Ecological citizenship can be communitarian or agnostic. This piece also includes a discussion of the Transition Town movement.

Kimmerer, Robin Wall. Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants. Minneapolis, MN: Milkweed Editions, 2013.

A Center for Humans and Nature favorite. The chapter, “Maple Nation: A Citizenship Guide,” includes a discussion of citizenship. Reciprocity is a topic in the chapter. Kimmerer also suggests ways in which citizenship can be enacted, such as attending a town meeting and representing interests and points of view that would otherwise be excluded.

Lawrence, Jacob. The 1920s… The Migrants Arrive and Cast Their Ballots. 1974. Color serigraph on paper. Albany Institute of History and Art.

An image of African Americans casting votes. Lawrence is known for his paintings depicting the Great Migration.

Leopold, Aldo. A Sand County Almanac. New York: Ballantine Books, 1966.

A classic statement of the Land Ethic and land citizenship.

Levenson, Michael. “American Samoans Should Be Granted U.S. Citizenship, Judge Rules.” New York Times, December 13, 2019.

In addition to the citizenship news out of India, this is another recent event in citizenship. The article deals with Samoa and a federal judge’s decision that states that Samoans should be recognized as U.S. citizens. One situation this nullifies is the inability for Samoans to qualify for some U.S. government jobs. Samoans are not necessarily in favor of this measure as they fear that traditional cultural or religious practices might be threatened.

Leydet, Dominique. “Citizenship.” The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Fall 2017 edition. Zalta, Edward N., editor.

The Stanford Encyclopedia is a valuable source for general overviews of philosophical concepts and the debates surrounding them.

Light, Andrew. “Restoring Ecological Citizenship.” In Democracy and the Claims of Nature, edited by Ben A. Minteer and Bob Pepperman Taylor. Lanham, Boulder, New York, and Oxford: Rowman & Littlefield. 2002, 153–72.

This article talks about the need for public participation in restoration ecology. Broadly, Light advocates for democracy and wants ecological citizenship to be an environmental dimension of those obligations one already has to other humans. Often, the article refers to restoration ecology in Chicago, including a mention of the Chicago Wilderness Project! An interesting point made in this article is Light’s distinction between ecological identity and ecological citizenship. He thinks that the latter is better. The former relies too heavily on identity politics, and he thinks this can make it exclusionary. Instead, he wants citizens to support environmental projects and realize that they are compatible with and promote their existing self-interested goals.

———. “The Urban Blind Spot in Environmental Ethics.” Environmental Politics 10, no. 1 (2001): 7–35.

I’m including this to supplement the other Light articles. While it doesn’t necessarily pertain to citizenship, it still speaks to urban areas and their importance in environmental consideration.

———. “Urban Ecological Citizenship.” Journal of Social Philosophy 34, no. 1 (2003): 44–63.

Discusses citizenship in urban contexts, so I think that this is a useful article to understand a rural/urban divide, which might complicate how one understands citizenship.

Long Soldier, Layli. Whereas. Minneapolis, MN: Graywolf Press, 2017.

Long Soldier is an indigenous poet, and this collection makes an important contribution to one’s thinking about ecological citizenship.

Luzadis, Valerie. “An Earth Economy: Citizenship before Consumerism.” Questions for a Resilient Future (blog), October 23, 2013.

Dovetails with some of the themes of the Seyfang piece. This piece suggests that citizenship is better equipped for caring about the Earth because it seeks to integrate the individual in the broader systems of the planet. Consumerism does not necessarily mean care for others.

Macgregor, Sherilyn. Beyond Mothering Earth: Ecological Citizenship and the Politics of Care. Vancouver and Toronto, Canada: UBC Press, 2006.

Provides an ecofeminist perspective on citizenship. Also connects these areas with care ethics. The book speaks to barriers toward realizing active participation for women citizens, with ecofeminist theory informing the argument.

MacIntyre, Alasdair. After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory, third edition. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2007.

A critique of liberalism that instead favors Aristotle and his virtue ethics approach. A foundational text in communitarianism. Sheds light on civic republicanism, the common good, and the human good.

Matthews, Freya. “Community and the Ecological Self.” Environmental Politics 4, no. 4 (1995): 66–100.

Another text opposed to liberalism and favoring a more communitarian/civic republican conception. An interesting thing is how Matthews argues for more local conceptions of community.

Mouffe, Chantal. “Democratic Citizenship and the Political Community.” In Dimensions of Radical Democracy: Participation, Citizenship, Community. London and New York: Verso, 1992, 225–39.

A critique of Rawls and communitarianism. Mouffe wants political communities to resist universal conceptions of the good and find common association in the rules by which a society is governed.

Murdock, Esme G. “Unsettling Reconciliation: Decolonial Methods for Transforming Social-Ecological Systems.”Environmental Values 27 (2018): 1–21.

Argues that some reconciliation models reproduce settler colonialism. This inhibits “deep reconciliation” because euro-descendent cosmologies are taken as more valuable than Indigenous cosmologies.

My Town in Transition: Rob Hopkins at TEDxExeter.” TEDx Talks, May 1, 2012.

Discusses transition towns. The town discussed is Totnes, England. This method is a way of responding locally to climate change. Is democratic in that those who participate and are most affected by local decisions are the ones who make those decisions. Under that, citizenship in a transition town would be active with a thick notion of obligation.

Nussbaum, Martha C. Creating Capabilities: The Human Development Approach. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 2011.

An extensive account of Nussbaum’s capabilities approach. Shows areas of a flourishing human life that can develop citizens, rather than leaving agents as subjects in political life like under a monarchy.

———. “The Discernment of Perception: An Aristotelian Conception of Private and Public Rationality.” In Love’s Knowledge: Essays on Philosophy and Literature. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990, 54–105.

A wonderful chapter on Aristotle. Aristotle’s rationality is less strict than a Kantian conception and allows an agent to break away from guiding principles when a situation demands so. A helpful essay when thinking about what might be expected of citizens, how they might act as agents in a democracy. Concludes with a discussion of education’s importance for a society.

 ———. Upheavals in Thought: The Intelligence of Emotions. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2001.

Chapter eight has a commentary on citizenship and how the emotion of compassion relates to citizenship and public life. Nussbaum discusses her capabilities approach in that section. It provides a take on areas of human life that are important for citizens to develop.

Rawls, John. Political Liberalism. New York: Columbia University Press, 1993.

Section titled “The Idea of Public Reason” is helpful in thinking about how citizens might engage in discourse within a civil society, specifically one that is pluralistic.

Sandler, Ronald. “Ethical Theory and the Problem of Inconsequentialism: Why Environmental Ethicists Should Be Virtue-Oriented Ethicists.” Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 23 (2010): 167–83.

 The crux of this is that individual actions/changes will not do much to address the ecological crisis. However, Sandler still thinks there is reason to do these things using a virtue ethics framework. In other words, these actions are still part of the virtuous life even if not everyone does them. Moreover, they could provide the basis for inspiring others.

Seyfang, Gill. “Shopping for Sustainability: Can Sustainable Consumption Promote Ecological Citizenship?” Environmental Politics 14, no. 2 (2005): 290–306.

Looks at consumption practices and their relationship to ecological citizenship (e.g., sustainable consumption). Analyzes this in terms of the United Kingdom. Within the market, sustainable consumption sends actors the wrong signals (author’s example is that fuel prices do not account for environmental costs), gross domestic product does not distinguish between things that do and do not enhance life, and consumers may not have information about the impact of their choices. Alternative view: 1) redefine terms like “wealth,” measure the economy through gauges like Measure of Domestic Progress; 2) eat local food; 3) use systems of community currency (informal exchange, second hand goods, recycling, etc.).

Simpson, Audra. Mohawk Interruptus: Political Life Across the Borders of Settler States. Duke University Press, 2014.

This book deals with the Mohawks of Kahnawàke. It discusses resistance to recognition of the effects of settler power and the importance of maintaining Indigenous culture.

Snyder, Samuel. “Collaborative Conservation: Leopold’s Land Citizenship in Coal Creek.” Minding Nature 2, no. 3 (2009): 3–12.

Provides a nice example of Leopold’s collaborative conservation in action. Citizenship, at least in this context, is local and smaller in scale. I think this piece does a nice job of detailing the human stake in conservation. It’s important to work toward ecosystem health, but it is also imperative that human health and well-being are included in conservation effort.

Solnit, Rebecca. A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster. New York: Penguin Books, 2009.

Discusses how people can come together and mutually aid one another in a time of crisis. Relevant to the current COVID-19 pandemic and the assistance and community mindfulness that result from it.

Symons, Jonathan, and Rasmus Karlsson. “Ecomodernist Citizenship: Rethinking Political Obligations in a Climate Changed World.” Citizenship Studies 22, no. 7 (2018): 685–704.

This article investigates what ecomodernist thinking means for citizenship. It is especially helpful because it introduces a recent trend in philosophy of technology and environmental philosophy. It frames ecomodernism in the context of the rise of nationalism and the harmful effect this has on liberal citizenship. Introduces ecomodernism, which favors technofixes to fix environmental problems.

Theocharis, Yannis, and Jan W. Van Deth. “The Continuous Expansion of Citizen Participation: A New Taxonomy.” European Political Science Review 10, no 1 (2018): 139–63.

This article identifies ways of engaging with citizenship and forms of political participation. It is empirical with a little theoretical discussion. Talks about social media as a new frontier of citizen participation.

Travaline, Katharine, and Christian Hunold. “Urban Agriculture and Ecological Citizenship in Philadelphia.” Local Environment 15, no. 6 (2010): 581–90.

The authors argue that urban agriculture is inclusive and brings disenfranchised groups to the table in food decisions. This means that more concerns than just profit can be voiced when it comes to food production. Moreover, food decisions assume a democratic dimension.

Van Dyke, Michelle Broder. “Why Some American Samoans Don’t Want U.S. Citizenship.” NBC News, December 17, 2019.

Some more information on the Samoan citizenship situation. Looks at the perspective of some Samoans who believe that U.S. citizenship will harm Samoan culture. Customs about land ownership could be under threat because of the citizenship decision.

Victor, Divya. Kith. Albany, NY: Fence Books, 2017.

Brilliant collection of poetry that helps readers to think of kinship as it unfolds in global immigration or diaspora, and the implications of that for the understanding of citizenship and change for an individual. This change can involve a great deal of emotional trauma, and Kith captures that.

Vogel, Steven. Thinking like a Mall: Environmental Philosophy after the End of Nature. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2015.

A forceful critique of the concept of “nature.” Aims at a more expansive notion of environmental philosophy and ecological protection. A helpful text for thinking about the Anthropocene and the politics of a society in this geological epoch.

Vuong, Ocean. Night Sky with Exit Wounds. Port Townsend, WA: Copper Canyon Press, 2016.

Another collection of poetry dealing with diaspora. Explores this with respect to Vietnamese Americans. Vuong is a queer poet, and romantic love is central theme to his work.

Wallerstein, Immanuel. “Citizens All? Citizens Some! The Making of the Citizen.” Comparative Studies in Society and History 45, no. 4 (2003): 650–79.

A historical analysis of how citizenship as a concept has come to be.

Walzer, Michael. “The Civil Society Argument.” In Dimensions of Radical Democracy: Pluralism, Citizenship, Community. London and New York: Verso, 1992, 89–107.

Looks at citizenship and the good life under republicanism, Marxism, capitalism, and nationalism. Walzer critiques these four as being too singular and argues that a civil society view will be better. Civil society will better understand that there is a plurality of associations. In other words, we are not all proletarians (Marxism) or free consumers (capitalism) or people bound by blood and tradition (nationalism). Instead, there are unions, producers, religious associations, etc., that make up society, a point missed in the four conceptions Walzer discusses. He wants multiple settings of participation.

Williams, Raymond. The Country and the City. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1973.

This book is important in the field of cultural studies. It speaks to the dynamic of the rural–urban divide. It builds on Marx’s account of primitive accumulation (the transition from feudalism to capitalism), but Williams is not an orthodox Marxist. Rather than understanding economic processes as something solely economic or scientific, Williams uses British literature and poetry to understand the history of rural spaces and the experiences of those who once inhabited them.

Young, Iris Marion. “Polity and Group Difference: A Critique of the Ideal of Universal Citizenship.” Ethics 99, no. 2 (1989): 250–74.

This article lays out historical issues with the concept. Young provides a forceful critique of the masculine thinking that coats citizenship as a concept. She suggests that this sort of theorizing excludes other minority ways of knowing that can inform the concept.

Zamora, Javier. Unaccompanied. Port Townsend, WA: Copper Canyon Press, 2017.

Includes a poem called “Citizenship” that discusses immigration across the southern border.

Additional resources

Buffaloe, Barbara. “Be an Active Citizen for the Environment.” TEDxCoMo. TEDx Talks. May 31, 2017.

Gabrielson, Teena, and R. McGreggor Cawley. “Plain Member and Citizen: Aldo Leopold and Environmental Citizenship.” Citizenship Studies 14, no. 5 (2010.: 605–615.

Merchant, Carolyn. “Shades of Darkness: Race and Environmental History.” Environmental History 8, no. 3 (2003): 380–94.

San Martín, Inés. “Pope to Launch Global Educational Pact Next Year.” Crux, September 12, 2019.

Image Credits:

Frederic Brenner, Citizens Protesting Anti-Semitic Acts, Billings, Montana, 1994, Gelatin silver print. Courtesy of the Art Institute of Chicago

  • Alexander Moore

    Alex is a graduate student at the University of Montana, Missoula where he is studying environmental philosophy. He completed his undergraduate study in English and philosophy at the College of Wooster. His research interests are environmentalism of urban areas, Thoreau, and wilderness.
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