Opening discourses of citizenship education: a theorization with Foucault

Katherine Nicoll*, Andreas Fejes, Maria Olson, Magnus Dahlstedt, Gert Biesta

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We argue two major difficulties in current discourses of citizenship education. The first is a relative masking of student discourses of citizenship by positioning students as lacking citizenship and as outside the community that acts. The second is in failing to understand the discursive and material support for citizenship activity. We, thus, argue that it is not a lack of citizenship that education research might address, but identification and exploration of the different forms of citizenship that students already engage in. We offer a fragmentary, poststructuralist theorization oriented to explore the 'contemporary limits of the necessary', drawing on specific resources from the work of Michel Foucault and others for the constitution of local, partial accounts of citizenship discourses and activities, and exploration of their possibilities and constraints. We argue this as a significant tactic of theorization in support of an opening of discourses of citizenship and in avoiding the discursive difficulties that we have identified. Our theorization, then, is significant in its potential to unsettle discourses that confine contemporary thought regarding citizenship education and support exploration of what might be excessive to that confinement.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)828-846
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Education Policy
Issue number6
Early online date8 Aug 2013
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2013


  • active citizenship
  • citizenship education
  • condition of possibility
  • democracy
  • discourse
  • power
  • statement

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