Engineering community spirit: the pre-figurative politics of affective citizenship in Dutch local governance

Mandy de Wilde*, Jan Willem Duyvendak

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Over the past two decades, communitarian criticisms of the lack of public engagement and a sense of local belonging have inspired extensive debates across Western Europe on how best to govern deprived urban neighbourhoods. One governmental strategy has been to engineer neighbourhood communities as localised, collective spheres of belonging. In this article, we show how ‘governing through affect’ has been part of Dutch neighbourhood policy since the turn of the millennium. Through an in-depth study of a community participation programme in a deprived Amsterdam neighbourhood, we analyse how policy practitioners use ‘sensitising policy techniques’ to enhance social cohesion and encourage communitarian citizenship among neighbourhood residents. Although governments often speak of ‘communities’ as self-evident entities, we argue that communities are better understood as enactments where discourses of neighbourliness, proximity, intimacy and familiarity encourage a localised, collective sense of belonging–a governmental strategy that mimics the ‘pre-figurative’ politics of radical social movements.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)973-993
JournalCitizenship Studies
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Affective citizenship
  • belonging
  • community
  • local governance
  • pre-figurative politics
  • sensitising policy techniques
  • the Netherlands

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