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Chapter 1 discusses the central theoretical frame of ingenious citizenship. It reconceives liberal citizenship as a cultural script, a standardizing and domineering way of life that governs how human subjects ought to live and participate as “proper” citizens, in different realms such as political life, economic life, gender life, and life itself. The liberal citizenship script contains elements of ideology (à la Marx), hegemony (à la Gramsci), and discourse (à la Foucault) that exist in a shifting continuum. This moving continuum molds different types of liberal citizen-subjects in varied sites, rendering the script both durable (hegemonic) and elastic (heterogeneous) in its dissemination across geographic borders, producing syncretic and discrepant effects. The chapter then offers a four-pronged frame to theorize how this liberal citizenship script is appropriated by abject subjects in ways that are oppositional, negotiated, interstitial, and subcultural—as ingenious improvisations of “nonexistent citizenship.”

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