Civic Governmentality: The Politics of Inclusion in Beirut and Mumbai

By Ananya Roy

This article is concerned with the politics of inclusion. It analyzes the institutionalization of participatory citizenship as the formation of regimes of “civic governmentality”. Through the study of key civil society organizations such as SPARC and Hezbollah, it studies three dimensions of civic governmentality: an infrastructure of populist mediation; technologies of governing (for example, knowledge production); and norms of self-rule (for example, concepts of civility and civicness). However, such regimes of civic governmentality operate within frontiers of urban renewal and indeed often facilitate and manage such types of development. The article examines the limits and contradictions of the politics of inclusion in the context of the bourgeois city and also studies radical forms of citizenship that emerge to challenge these limits.

The twenty-first century metropolis is a paradoxical space. On the one hand, it is shaped by grassroots citizenship, civil society energies, and social mobilizations. This populist mood is also constantly institutionalized by development conditionalities that insist upon “participatory” frameworks of planning and reform. On the other hand, the contemporary city is marked by deepening forms of inequality, the speeding up of displacements, and the entrenchment of segregations and separations that territorialize urban identities in enclave geographies. While there is a formidable body of work on contours of exclusion, there is less rigorous discussion of the politics of inclusion. In this paper, I pose two sets of questions about the inclusive city. First, what are the ways in which regimes of participation and inclusion are instituted and institutionalized? What are the governable subjects and governable spaces thus produced? In other words, how are regimes of participation and inclusion also regimes of “civic governmentality”? Second, how is civic governmentality related to more rebellious forms of citizenship and mobilization? In the politics of inclusion, what is the dialectical movement between insurgency and institutionalization? How is the ideal of inclusion formalized in regimes of civic governmentality but then disrupted and challenged by new and more radical forms of inclusion?

In exploring these questions, I put forward the analytic concept of “civic governmentality”. The idea of governmentality derives of course from Foucault’s analysis of the rationalities and mentalities of government. Government, in turn, is conceptualized as the calculated direction of human conduct, “the conduct of conduct” (Dean 1999:2). The art of government is distinct from sovereignty, the exercise of power by the state over a defined territory, and from discipline, the control and regulation of bodies. Government, by contrast, unfolds through the mobilization of the interests and aspirations of the governable and self-governing self, ie through willed, free, self-determining, even empowered, subjects. This “ethics of the self” is thus a central aspect of governmentality. But also important is how the art of government reconstitutes practices of sovereignty and discipline. The “governmentalization of the state” implies that government, while distinct from sovereignty, also transforms the way in which sovereignty is exercised (Dean 1999:6). In short, Foucault conceives sovereignty, discipline and government as an assemblage of authority and ethics rather than as distinctive modes of power. In recent years, scholars have paid considerable attention to how this assemblage functions through the governance of space, ie through “spatial governmentality” (Merry 2001). The construction of governable subjects is thus seen to be the construction of governable spaces. In the study of spatial politics, scholars are also making a distinction between governmentality and “counter-governmentality”, between “governmentality from above” and “governmentality from below”, between “civil society” and “political society” (Appadurai 2002; Chatterjee 2004).

The concept of “civic governmentality” builds on, and yet departs from, such conceptualizations of governmentality. In keeping with the scholarship on governmentality, I envision civic governmentality as a spatialized regime that functions through particular mentalities or rationalities. (…)


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