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Markers of Cultural Citizenship in Austria

We move on to Elisabeth Klaus and Ricarda Drüeke as the next speakers at ECREA 2010; their focus is on media coverage of Austrian migration policy. This is a question of cultural citizenship, concerning cultural belonging and identity formation, and conducted through cultural and media participation. Cultural citizenship entails all those cultural practices that allow or prevent cultural participation.

Media present spaces of identity that offer certain positions to people according to their markers of identity. So, the question arises which identities are presented in the media. In the context of Austrian migration policy, citizenship is based on the citizenship of one’s parents as well as a number of other social and cultural conditions (examined in a citizenship test), but can also be granted to persons with extraordinary achievements in science, economy, arts, or sports without other conditions being met.

This project examined four specific persons whose rights to Austrian citizenship were under media scrutiny. Arigona Zogaj is a Kosovan refugee who was repatriated from Austria; her case was discussed with reference to asylum and migration legislation, and she was portrayed as a foreigner with no inherent rights to Austrian citizenship as well as obligations of integration into Austrian society. Mona S. was described as ‘the veiled woman’ for her refusal to remove her hijab in a court case, and positioned as outside Austrian society even though she was an Austrian citizen. Anna Netrebko is a Russian opera singer who was recently granted citizenship because of her talent, and was portrayed in a somewhat sexualised manner. Finally, though born and raised in Vienna, Christoph Waltz is a German actor (notable for his Oscar-winning role in Inglorious Basterds) who identifies as Austrian and sought Austrian citizenship.

There are a variety of cultural markers which designate or deny Austrian identity and citizenship, then – including gender and class as well as other elements. Markers of cultural citizenship are of prime importance to these media debates, in fact.