Cities, citizenship and civic learning: Introduction to the special edition

Gert Biesta, Gillian Cowell*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The city - both as idea and as reality - remains an important reference point for thinking through questions of citizenship and democracy. From an educational point of view the city can therefore be seen as an important site for civic learning, that is, for the learning relevant for democratic citizenship. One important question this raises is how we might best understand and theorise processes and practices of civic learning - a question with important ramifications for pedagogic practices that seek to enhance and promote democratic citizenship. The three papers brought together in this collection pursue these theoretical lines through an exploration of civic learning in the context of practices of civic action in a range of geographical locations and settings, and through a range of different actions and activities. In each case the focus is not on the transmission of existing civic identities so as to reproduce the existing socio-political order, but on far more difficult and, in the eyes of the authors far more important, processes of democratic invention and intervention, action and activity that seek to establish public relationships and contexts and practices that promote the establishment of such relationships. These processes, as the contributions show, are neither easy, nor are they without tensions and contradictions. Yet the careful documentation and critical analysis conducted by each of the authors brings into view very different dimensions of civic action and civic learning than what official statistics tend to reveal about so-called 'active' citizenship.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)427-430
Number of pages4
JournalPolicy Futures in Education
Issue number4
Early online date20 Oct 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2016


  • Adult education
  • Citizenship
  • Civic learning
  • Public pedagogy


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