The Psychology of Global Citizenship
reviewed by Hany Zayed - May 17, 2019
Global citizenship has been seeping into the reams of popular culture, political discourse, and identity, and has been steadily traversing disciplinary boundaries from education to psychology. In their insightful, innovative, and timely book, The Psychology of Global Citizenship, Stephen Reysen and Iva Katzarska-Miller note how globalization is having a tangible impact not only on connectivity and movement, but also on the way people view themselves. Shifting peoples concerns to issues beyond the local or national, globalization is prompting individuals to take on superordinate and deterritorialized identities that complicate, complement, and at times supplant other local and national identities.
The Psychology of Global Citizenship presents a rigorous and systematic synthesis of insights on global citizenship from a social-psychological lens. It seeks to bring into conversation a multiplicity of variegated and disorganized cross-disciplinary research, interrogate common themes emerging from academic and non-academic perspectives, and ground the theoretical basis of global citizenship in empirical research by interweaving different methodological orientations. Seeking to clarify the dynamics of global citizenship, the book advances a model of global citizenship identification that explores what it means to be a global citizen, what leads some people to experience themselves as global citizens, and what the consequences of that experience are.
The book begins with a brief overview of the history of global citizenship. It explores how global citizenship grew out of cosmopolitanism and examines the historical roots of the latter construct from Greek philosophical traditions to its contemporary manifestations. The book continues with an exploration of definitions, conceptualizations, and typologies of global citizenship, and reviews similar and overlapping constructs such as superordinate identities (those which subsume various subgroups, such as world citizenship) and global orientations (worldviews and attitudes that are naturally global, such as cosmopolitanism). Drawing on both academic work and lay literatures (those reflecting peoples theories and beliefs about the world), Reysen and Katzarska-Miller propose a theorization as well as a model of global citizenship.
Conceptualizing global citizenship as a superordinate identity that subsumes other subgroups (such as nationality) and shapes both attitudes and behaviors, Reysen and Katzarska-Miller take an optimistic view of global citizenship as global awareness, caring, embracing cultural diversity, promoting social justice and sustainability, and a sense of responsibility to act (p. 58). In Chapters Four and Five, the authors provide an empirically supported model of antecedents and outcomes of global citizenship identification. Using the notion of intentional worlds (that people are influenced by and influence the sociocultural spaces they inhabit), this model contends that global citizenship is a social identity that is informed by two antecedents: normative environment (valued others advocating for a global citizenship identity, such as friends or family) and global awareness (knowledge of and connection to others). Once the global citizenship identity is made salient, the model predicts certain pro-social outcomes to emerge. Those outcomes include intergroup empathy, valuing diversity, social justice beliefs, environmental sustainability, intergroup helping, and felt responsibility to improve the world. It is important to note that the authors pay attention to contextual variables, such as media, religion, and politics, in influencing the model. The final two chapters provide a review of research examining global citizenship and related constructs in education and business (for example, global citizenship education and corporate social responsibility, respectively), and in the conclusion, the authors note areas of literature imbalance and propose future research avenues.
Reysen and Katzarska-Miller largely succeed in what they set out to do. They do a commendable job of bringing together fragmented insights on global citizenship from a variety of disciplinary perspectives (such as psychology, political science, education, and business) and methodological orientations (for example, quantitative and qualitative modes of inquiry). In addition, the authors succeed in deftly disentangling the intricate relations between global citizenship and similar constructs (such as world citizenship and cosmopolitanism), and in making sense of and synthesizing how scholars and people think about the meanings, origins, and consequences of global citizenship. Through a meticulous interrogation and integration of empirical research in theoretical literatures, the authors also succeed in redressing the underfocus on the empirical in global citizenship research, the prime example being the espoused global citizenship identification model. Finally, the authors utilize their synthesis to provide a useful blueprint of gaps, questions and recommendations that require systematic interventions from future researchers. One notable question raised by the authors is the dark side of global citizenship. This question becomes pertinent and urgent especially with the transnational growth of white supremacy, Islamist radicalism, Islamophobia, and anti-immigration sentiments, among others.
While The Psychology of Global Citizenship reviews divergent theoretical orientations and empirical work on global citizenship, invariably some perspectives and epistemologies will be excluded, as no book can cover it all. However, for a book that calls for global awareness and embracing cultural diversity, it is exceedingly Western-centric. This becomes apparent from the historical genealogies explored (for example, emphasizing the Western philosophical roots of global citizenship) to the disproportionate reliance on research conducted in English, with U.S. undergraduate students, in U.S. institutions, by U.S. researchers and published in U.S. outlets. While the authors begin to integrate context, specify samples in their review, and include non-Western research, including from Nigeria, India, and the Philippines, those are only a handful of exceptions. In this sense, the book becomes Western-centric in general and U.S.-centric in particular, with global citizenship becoming the object of and being seen from the purview of North America.
By using this particular Western historical experience to present a seemingly general, universal, and trans-historical model of global citizenship, the authors silence (re)conceptualizations, (mis)applications, seemingly (ir)relevant instantiations and consequences of global citizenship emerging from the Global South. To be fair, the authors clearly acknowledge those limitations in their work and in the field in general. Yet, while they call for replicating this model in other sociocultural spaces, this solution falls short. Replicating the model (and its underpinning theorization) preserves its apparent universality, veils its historical particularity, and precludes the emergence of multiple indigenous models from particular cultural contexts with their own epistemologies and ontologies.
With regards to methodology, although the authors attempt to integrate quantitative and qualitative methods, there seems to be an over-reliance on the former vis-à-vis the latter. While this quantitative bent is understandable considering the social-psychological focus of the book, including more qualitative work would further shed light on the processes of identity formation and identity enactment that are infused with meaning-making. Furthermore, samples were at times problematic. In addition to being WEIRD (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic), samples were usually very small and consisted of mostly young participants in particular fields that are not necessarily representative of populations. One notable example is surveying undergraduate psychology and business students about hiring practices. The authors also do not discuss the issue of reflexivity. In cultural contexts that are not familiar with global citizenship identity (that is, where global citizenship is not yet socially constructed), how is the research process socializing people into this nascent global citizenship identity and then testing what it teaches (for example, through administering surveys and conducting interviews)? To use the authors model, to what extent is the research process a part of the intentional worlds: acting as the normative environment and creating global awareness to construct a global citizenship identity?
Finally, while the authors highlight the importance of the cultural context and seek to incorporate different disciplinary insights, there is still room for further integration. For example, the sociology of global citizenship would underscore the contextual factors and social forces operating both within the model (i.e., intentional worlds and normative environment) and without (i.e., model predictors). Ultimately, a sociology of global citizenship would highlight the social situatedness of knowledge production, as it is from the standpoint of power that global citizenship research comes to fruition.
Eventually, The Psychology of Global Citizenship presents a timely intervention and a remarkable contribution to a growing but fragmented field. The books relevant and much-needed insights will certainly spur a fruitful conversation between different disciplinary perspectives and provide important signposts for future research.