University of Sussex

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Designing safe citizens

journal contribution
posted on 2023-06-08, 13:36 authored by Cynthia Weber
Modern liberal citizenship is a failing design, and this is nowhere more apparent than in the contemporary US. Currently there is a frenzy around US citizenship – who has it but shouldn’t have it, who should have it but doesn’t have it, who had it but renounced it. The sheer volume of ideas, images, and events and their mass circulation makes it almost impossible not to notice how unsettled and unsettling contemporary US citizenship has become. If, as designer Bruce Mau suggests, the success of a design is its invisibility, then it seems that the design of contemporary US citizenship is anything but a success. Taking seriously the claim that modern liberal citizenship is a failing design, this article focuses on how citizenship is designed and redesigned through history. Its central research question is: what are the design principles of modern liberal citizenship, and how are they experienced in the contemporary US? Noting that modern liberal citizenship emerged from state security debates and that security concerns preoccupy those in the contemporary US, this article investigates not only how citizenship is designed but how safe citizenship is designed. As such, it is less concerned with the legal definition of citizenship than with the practical packaging of citizenship as part of a design for safe living.


Publication status

  • Published


Citizenship Studies




Taylor & Francis





Page range


Department affiliated with

  • International Relations Publications

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Peer reviewed?

  • Yes

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