Varieties of Citizenship
7 Pages Posted: 16 Nov 2018
Date Written: 2007
During this Symposium, we will use the concept of citizenship to talk about all kinds of things: about the enjoyment of rights of various kinds, about political and civic engagements, about experiences of collective identity and solidarity, and about the possession of formal national membership status or nationality. As you can see, "citizenship" is a term that does a lot of work-perhaps too much work. However, as requested by the organizers, I am going to address myself to the last understanding of citizenship I have mentioned: citizenship in the formal national status sense. I will do that by talking about a class of people who lack that status by legal definition-the class the law calls aliens. Understanding the condition of aliens is obviously important for practical reasons, given that, in this country and all over the world, increasing numbers of people find themselves living outside of their countries of nationality without citizenship status, often to their disadvantage. But attention to alienage is also theoretically important because it is a category in which different understandings of citizenship converge in challenging ways. Alienage is "about" citizenship as nationality, but it is also just as much "about" citizenship in its other registers. Consequently, I will consider the relationship among the various understandings of citizenship as they converge in the alienage setting. Very briefly, I will argue that alienage is a site where citizenship's contrasting normative impulses-universalist and exclusionary-meet and compete in ways which citizenship theory as a whole needs to attend to.
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