Veera Korhonen

discovering rhetoric

The True Exclusivity of Citizenship, an Argument by David Fleming

Part 1, Two of City of Rhetoric, The Placelessness of Political Theory, David Fleming argues that the definition of American citizenship, which essentially states that citizenship isn’t defined by such things as race and language, is subjective. Comparing this definition to examples such as that individuals must speak and read English in order to become an American citizen prove his point. Fleming reiterates that perhaps we shouldn’t want to transcend over the physical differences people have, and try to pretend that race, religion, and ethnicity aren’t present, because it would highlight those who don’t have any physical differences from the “norm” of America, which are white, middle-age, middle-class men. This would continue the trend that America had in the past, with white Christian men being in charge. Our society sees citizenship as inclusive and that all should be considered equal, but the truth that Fleming explores is that people are all individuals for a reason, and those differences shouldn’t be denied, because they are essentially the cause of social change and how our country has been able to evolve.

While exploring the meaning of being a citizen, Fleming stakes a claim that perhaps citizenship shouldn’t be focused on the place where one was born or where they live. Politics are largely focused on the environments in which we reside in, because it is essentially what we are fighting for, creating a better place for where we live and work. Fleming agrees that, “politics should be about people not territory” (Fleming, 23), but notes this could only be true if citizenship was actually inclusive. Democracy should be about more than just the places we have in common, but these spaces we consider home are utterly important to us, they determine who we are and how we live. Politics is used to create change, and everyone wants these changes to affect the places in which they live in. Without place as a main factor, the voice of politics would be generalized and unpurposeful. In today’s modern society though, place is becoming less relevant, people are less dependent on specific places and more adaptable to new environments. Politics still largely depends on place though, people relocate based on how advanced countries are, and what they are able to afford. Therefore, Fleming proves that place matters more than we know.

In conclusion, Fleming disputes that because of the importance of place, citizenship is an inclusive term. Where one is born has a great deal to do with what they believe in, and the reason that politics can even make a difference. While the definition of citizenship tries to claim that race and identity are overlooked, the truth is that they are more present than ever, since the environments we inhabit are becoming more diverse. Sharing a common space creates a place where individuals all feel like they belong, as well as a place that is subject to social change that the citizens themselves can participate in. Social inequality in a place matters in order for that society to function and flourish, continuing to evolve into a better version of itself. In this chapter, Fleming essentially argues that the idea of place, the spaces that we share with each other, should be a more important focus in defining what a citizen is.


Works Cited

Fleming, David. “The Placelessness of Political Theory.” Preface. City of Rhetoric: Revitalizing the Public Sphere in Metropolitan America. Albany: SUNY, 2008. 19-35. Print.

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