The concept of a 'Shadow Citizen' goes back to enlightenment thinking about enfranchisement and the difficulty of inclusion*.
Recent critical thinkers have recognized that universal, abstract characterizations of citizenship do not recognize the uneven distribution of human rights, especially as they are experienced by the handicapped, ex-felons, or non-citizens (to name a few examples). This allows the the state to create ‘shadow citizens’ of the disabled and others on the ‘margins of visibility for justice’ regardless of official citizenship status.
To define the shadow citizenry for this project meant expanding the idea to include both legal citizens, albeit those that are disenfranchised in some way, and social participants without legal status. Combining these seemingly disparate groups by functional status (lack of voting) rather than legal standing highlights the hidden affinities that overlay typical differences.
The Shadow Citizens we interview and cast have a diverse, complex relationship to the political state, but share the general quality of ‘outsiders’.
This is the salient fact: an underclass of millions is economically and/or politically disenfranchised, and remains hidden and voiceless.
It makes sense that a group of artists and reporters would set out a project like Shadow Citizens to slowly and quietly portray our kind. The context we choose to frame this work is not academic, but in the historical locations where justice was at stake. These are places of forced displacement, or rebellion, and of migration and settlement. These are the places that root the shadow’s long cast.
The Shadow Citizens website has been sponsored in part by the Wake Forest University Humanities Institute
with support made possible by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Any views expressed in this Web resource do not necessarily represent those of
the National Endowment for the Humanities.
* For an interesting discussion of the term, look at Andy Merrifield’s the Shadow Citizenry on the Open Democracy website. Another use worth noting is by Ann Cammett in her article discussion of how felony records and prison debts are use to prevent people from voting: