14th Annual Conference in Citizenship Studies: Violence and Citizenship

Date and time

March 30 - April 1, 2017

About the conference

Fifty years ago, many major cities in the United States experienced violent protests in response to dramatic social upheavals. The 1967 Detroit uprising, in particular, was ignited by a number of social and political factors, including police abuse and increasing Black militancy. In Detroit, the violent insurgency was an assertion of citizenship in direct response to state-sanctioned violence organized at the time to constrain access to housing, education, and employment on the basis of race. Such enforced segregation has the effect of disproportionately exposing the most vulnerable populations to other forms of violent crimes and domestic abuse.

Deliberate use of violence against vulnerable populations includes not only genocide but also the recruiting of child soldiers, wars (civil and international) and the refugee crises spawned by wars, terrorism and counter-terrorism, state-sanctioned violence and violence by informal actors, the uses of violence to resist oppression and of non-violence to attain the same goal. Violence in all these forms—the use of it, exposure to it, protection from it, and even the absence of protection from it—has a direct influence on the access people do, or do not have to the full rights and benefits of citizenship.

Among the many questions raised by the place of violence in our world: How are rights, obligations, and privileges shaped by uses of violence? In what ways does access to violence among citizens shape experiences of freedom and public power? How do uses of state-sanctioned violence shape not only citizens’ relationship to public power but also the way society constitutes and conceives of the state itself?

The conference will examine such topics as:

  • Historical (or present, or possible future) changes in the role of state-sanctioned violence
  • Matters related to uses of violence in citizen insurgency
  • Accounts of the impact of genocide on the social and political constructions of citizenship
  • Theories of citizenship that critically engage the dynamics of violence, sovereignty, and citizenship
  • Relationships between violence and leadership, authority, power, or responsibility


Wayne State University
Detroit, MI 48202 (map)


Heather Ann Thompson

Author of Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and its Legacy.

Heather Ann Thompson


View conference program (PDF)

Presentations and notes


Rethinking Violence and Citizenship In the Age of Mass Incarceration