Gated Citizenship

Citizenship Studies 26 (2022), 625-637

18 Pages Posted: 6 Aug 2022

See all articles by Ayelet Shachar

Ayelet Shachar

University of Toronto - Faculty of Law; affiliation not provided to SSRN

Date Written: August 3, 2022


In The Birthright Lottery, I explored the multiple ways in which birthright access to citizenship operates as a distributor (or denier) of opportunity on a global scale. And what a significant distributor it is. Today, 97 percent of the global population gains access to citizenship solely by virtue of where or to whom they were born. In this article, I shift the gaze from the automatic transmission of citizenship, which I refer to as the initial allocation, to deciphering the code, or underlying logic, governing the secondary allocation: the process of naturalization. Counter to predictions of waning sovereignty, tremendous investment is placed on regulating mobility, migration, and access to membership. This article identifies three core sorting mechanisms that produce overt and covert inequalities in the acquisition of citizenship. We may refer to these as the trinity of the territorial, the cultural, and the economic. These intersecting yet analytically distinct dimensions allow governments to develop sophisticated sorting mechanisms to “filter” admission in reference to different target populations, placing a heavy burden on those seeking it. This contribution, which will appear in the 25th Anniversary Special Issue of Citizenship Studies, lays bare the mistaken assumption that we live in a world wherein mobility is purely chosen and easily available—irrespective of race, gender, class, power, and legal regulation. It further suggests ways of reinvigorating the political imagination for rewriting the rules governing access to membership.

Keywords: citizenship; initial allocation; membership acquisition; naturalization, mobility, borders; territory; culture; economic barriers

Suggested Citation

Shachar, Ayelet and Shachar, Ayelet, Gated Citizenship (August 3, 2022). Citizenship Studies 26 (2022), 625-637, Available at SSRN: or

Ayelet Shachar (Contact Author)

affiliation not provided to SSRN

University of Toronto - Faculty of Law ( email )

78 and 84 Queen's Park
Toronto, Ontario M5S 2C5
416-978-1620 (Phone)
416-978-7899 (Fax)


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