Microcitizenships: Fractious Forms of Urban Belonging after Argentine Neoliberalism


To explain cross‐class spatial relations in ‘post‐neoliberal’ Buenos Aires, this article develops the notion of microcitizenships, defined as group‐specific quasi‐legal relationships with the local state, entailing both recognition and service provision in order to grant exclusive yet temporary rights to particularized legitimate uses of urban space. This conceptualization contrasts in particular with prominent theorizations of liberal, insurgent and flexible citizenship. Microcitizenships capture the newly fractious, rather than merely fragmented, nature of social rights after the adoption of more inclusive and nationalist discourses in the recovery period following the neoliberal crisis of 2001–02. Argentina has been an icon of both neoliberal and post‐neoliberal globalization, making its capital city ideal for the study of changing forms of belonging in the new political–economic context. Taking three central neighborhoods redeveloped in the neoliberal period (1989–2001) which were landmarks of fragmentation, I find they are now characterized by clashes among groups negotiating very different claims of legitimate presence in the same sites. I use ethnographic and interview‐based evidence to outline three types of conflicting membership: ‘excessive’, ‘weekend’ and ‘transposable’ citizens. All employ post‐neoliberal idioms but invoke legitimizations specifically from disparate geographic scales to stake their claims. Thus, amid inclusionary rhetoric, ironically there are microcitizenships that embody spatio‐temporally circumscribed, precarious and especially fractious forms of belonging in the city. Closing considerations address how this concept resonates with a range of contemporary urban contexts.