Date Thesis Awarded

Summer 7-2011

Access Type

Honors Thesis -- Access Restricted On-Campus Only

Degree Name

Bachelors of Arts (BA)




John Baltes

Committee Members

John Lombardini

Christopher Freiman


This project will make three main claims. First, late-modern democracies present citizens with a unique set of challenges that require rethinking the conception of citizenship as a static category that simply classifies individuals. Instead, I will contend that citizenship must be understood as a process, in which citizens must continually work upon themselves to vivify democratic institutions and act democratically in spheres outside of politics as generally understood. Second, citizens should cultivate a particular ethos of what Stephen White calls "presumptive generosity," which "is intended as an initial response designed to restrain the resentment and hostility we otherwise tend to bring into public engagement." This ethos challenges one's own identity claims, and is focused on the presencing of difference and the proliferation of identity claims. Third, this ethos requires that citizens "care" for themselves. This care requires a type of self-reflection that problematizes the subject's conception of self, exposing that her identity is constituted by difference and is more ambiguous and problematic than she had previously believed. In turn, this self-reflection requires a "mirror;" to gain this self-knowledge citizens must engage in dialogues with others, and themselves, which works to presence the contingency of these identity claims. I contend that these engagements with difference are critical to cultivate an ethos of presumptive generosity. By problematizing their own strong identity claims and recognizing the difference and contingency inherent in them, citizens can become more attuned to difference in others, resisting the urge to turn difference into something that must be converted or destroyed.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.


Thesis is part of Honors ETD pilot project, 2008-2013. Migrated from Dspace in 2016.

On-Campus Access Only