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Nomadic Identities

The Performance of Citizenship

1999
Author:

May Joseph

Nomadic Identities

A look at citizenship through the lens of performance.

In a modern world of vast migrations and relocations, the rights-and rites-of citizenship are increasingly perplexing, and ever more important. Kung Fu cinema, soul music, plays, and speeches are some of the media May Joseph considers as expressive negotiations for legal and cultural citizenship.

Nomadic Identites is very well-written, and a pleasure to read. It speaks in important ways to the current fascination with issues of identity and migrancy, and to the literature on postcolonial theory. Joseph's major contribution is to describe how people are able to claim, acquire, enact, and perform citizenship of different sorts under conditions of migrancy.

Lawrence Grossberg, author of: Bringing It All Back Home: Essays on Cultural Studies

In a modern world of vast migrations and relocations, the rights—and rites—of citizenship are increasingly perplexing, and ever more important. This book asks how citizenship is enacted when all the world’s the stage.

Kung Fu cinema, soul music, plays, and speeches are some of the media May Joseph considers as expressive negotiations for legal and cultural citizenship. Nomadic Identities combines material culture and historical approaches to forge connections between East Africa, India, Britain, the Caribbean, and the United States in the struggles for democratic citizenship. Exploring the notion of nomadic citizenship as a modern construct, Joseph emphasizes culture as the volatile mise-en-scène through which popular conceptions of local and national citizenship emerge.

Joseph, an Asian African from Tanzania, brings a personal insight to the question of how citizenship is expressed—particularly the nomadic, conditional citizenship related to histories of migrancy and the tenuous status of immigrants. Nomadic Identities investigates the metaphoric, literal, and performed possibilities available in different arenas of the everyday through which individuals and communities experience citizenship, successfully or not. A unique inquiry into contemporary experiences of migrancy linking Tanzania, Britain, and the United States, this book blends political theory, performance studies, cultural studies, and historical writing. It offers vignettes that describe the official and informal cultural transactions that designate citizenship under the globalizing forces of decolonization, the cold war, and transnational networks.

Crossing the globe, Nomadic Identities provides fresh insights into the contemporary phenomena of territorial displacement and the resulting local and transnational movements of people.

Nomadic Identities

May Joseph is assistant professor of performance studies at New York University. She is coeditor (with Jennifer Natalya Fink) of Performing Hybridity (1999), published by the University of Minnesota Press.

Nomadic Identities

Nomadic Identites is very well-written, and a pleasure to read. It speaks in important ways to the current fascination with issues of identity and migrancy, and to the literature on postcolonial theory. Joseph's major contribution is to describe how people are able to claim, acquire, enact, and perform citizenship of different sorts under conditions of migrancy.

Lawrence Grossberg, author of: Bringing It All Back Home: Essays on Cultural Studies

Compelling reading. A breakthrough work. Joseph eloquently points to various examples of the strand of citizenship, such as the worldwide consumption of soul music, Bruce Lee movies, and Blaxploitation movies in distant places such as Tanzania.

Journal of Communication

Nomadic Identities focuses on how the performance of citizenship is a crucial site of investigation. The strength of Joseph's analysis lies in her ability to draw out the tensions inherent in citizenship, particularly as populations migrate. An excellent book. By tracing not just one group of people, but also the structures which informed their engagement with cultural citizenship at various times, in various locations (other populations, popular culture, state institutions), Nomadic Identities carries out the much needed task of examining how postnationalism has been lived. By focusing on the ways that citizenship is performed, Joseph points to the distinctions between legal and cultural citizenship. Nomadic Identities offers a new framework to examine not only cultural citizenship, but our understandings of nation forming, performance, and political participation. With this work, Joseph has insightfully interrogated how citizenship travels, forcing a refashioning of the relationship between people and nations. Nomadic Identities is an important book not only for those interested in citizenship but for exploring the movement of people and the reconfiguring of modern identities.

Cultural Dynamics

A cogently argued book that creatively engages three areas of investigation which are at the vanguard of contemporary intellectual inquiry: citizenship, transnationalism or diaspora, and performance.

Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development