Treason, Expatriation and 'So-Called' Americans: Recovering the Role of Allegiance in Citizenship

Ashwini Vasanthakumar

University of Oxford - University College


Georgetown Journal of Law & Public Policy, Vol. 12, 2014

Allegiance is an essential element of citizenship, featuring in its statutory definition and invoked in its rituals. Most scholars have dismissed allegiance as a vestige from a feudal past. Certainly, the last several decades have witnessed a revolution in citizenship: access to citizenship has been liberalized, and citizenship is now widely recognized as a ‘right to have rights’ that states are loath to infringe upon. Allegiance would seem to have no place in this context. In this Article, I seek to recover the role of allegiance in citizenship and demonstrate its continued legal and normative relevance. I develop two illustrative conceptions of allegiance by analogy to political obligation and civic virtue. I then undertake a close reading of select Supreme Court decisions in treason and statutory expatriation — contexts in which the betrayal or transfer of allegiance is of moment. I draw upon these decisions to further illuminate the concept of allegiance as well as to identify its normative implications for citizenship. Through inchoate allusions to allegiance, states recently have deprived individuals of their citizenship and undermined the protections that status once afforded. Clarity about allegiance is necessary to avoid abuse; this Article begins a preliminary investigation.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 38

Keywords: citizenship, treason, expatriation, allegiance, political obligation, loss of nationality

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Date posted: May 13, 2014  

Suggested Citation

Vasanthakumar, Ashwini, Treason, Expatriation and 'So-Called' Americans: Recovering the Role of Allegiance in Citizenship (2014). Georgetown Journal of Law & Public Policy, Vol. 12, 2014. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2435855

Contact Information

Ashwini Vasanthakumar (Contact Author)
University of Oxford - University College ( email )
High Street
Oxford, OX1 4BH
United Kingdom
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