10 Questions with Andrew Brown

<p>Andrew Brown, co-editor of <em>The Citizen: Past and Present</em></p>

Andrew Brown, co-editor of The Citizen: Past and Present


1. Now that it’s published, what pleases you most about The Citizen: Past and Present?
It’s the range of periods and societies compared and contrasted, from ancient to modern – reaching across the disciplines of history, classics and politics at Massey. And a publisher prepared to invest in this important subject.


2. Why is discussion of citizenship important?  
It’s so central an issue to the healthy functioning of modern democracies. Open any newspaper, or better still, read Emily Beausoleil’s chapter on Twenty-First-Century Citizenship: has discussion of it ever been so challenging?

3. What can we learn from looking at earlier models of citizenship?
A sense of perspective. How can the modern citizen grapple with present-day problems without engaging with the past? So often, it turns out, problems are not new (immigration, for instance); while newly defined notions of citizenship prove to be highly contingent on unstable circumstances.  

4. Do students find examining citizenship challenging and relevant?
I’m quite sure they do. The new BA core courses at Massey focusing on citizenship have made this plain.  

5. Who did you and your co-editor John Griffiths draw together as the team of contributing writers?
The book began life as a workshop event in 2015 on past citizenships, bringing together colleagues mostly from the history programme. Some experts in other fields were roped in later – we’re grateful to Prof. Daniel Ogden for his piece on citizens (and serpents!) in ancient Greece. But the particular pleasure of the book was to be able to ‘talk’ to colleagues when so often we have so widely different areas and periods of interest.

6. Tell us about one major new thing you learnt from reading and working on their chapters.
How often ‘citizenship’ proved to be a divisive issue. Despite its inclusive connotations, it frequently worked to exclude, be it in ancient Greece, medieval Egypt or nineteenth-century New Zealand. Does defining who the ideal citizen is always mean defining who isn’t, even now?

7. Being the book's editor: stressful or rewarding?
Rewarding. The stress in editing books is often the process of extracting work from contributors. Everyone has their own individual priorities and deadlines. Pleading emails don’t always get answered. There was no such stress in editing this volume: our colleagues in history were always so obliging. It helps if editors can patrol corridors and bang on contributors’ doors.  

8. What’s the best time of day for you for writing?
From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., following the first major infusion of coffee.

9. What strategies do you deploy when the going gets tough?
Caffeine usually effective, combined with almonds or chocolate. Failing stimulants, I resort to the thought of home later with children, after school, and nothing at work seems difficult.

10. What are you reading at the moment?
I’m reading Julian Barnes, The Noise of Time, which for some unfathomable reason has got me to re-open Remembrance of Things Past. I’m also reading (to the children, of course), J.K. Rowling The Order of the Phoenix, which oddly also involves plunging into memories.