Award Year: 
2017
Charles Lee, Associate Professor of Justice and Social Inquiry, School of Social Transformation, ASU

Ingenious Citizenship: Recrafting Democracy for Social Change by Charles T. Lee focuses on the daily experiences and actions of marginalized people such as migrant domestic workers, prostitutes, and transgendered people as central in the rethinking of mainstream models of social change. Bridging cultural and political theory with analyses of film, literature, and ethnographic sources, Lee shows how these actors find ingenious and improvisational ways to disrupt and appropriate practices of liberal citizenship: when voting and other forms of civic engagement are unavailable or ineffective, the subversive acts of a domestic worker breaking a dish, or a prostitute using the strategies and language of an entrepreneur, challenge the accepted norms of political action. Using these examples to critically reinterpret political agency, citizenship practices, and social transformation, Lee reveals the limits of organizing change around a human rights discourse. Moreover, his subjects offer crucial lessons in how to turn even the worst conditions and the most unstable positions in society into footholds for transformative and democratic agency.