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The Contemporary Debate on Citizenship.: Some Remarks on the Erased of Slovenia
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Arts, Department of Philosophy.
2009 (English)In: Revus – European Constitutional Review, Vol. 9, 29-44 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

“Citizenship  is  the  right  to have  rights” was  famously claimed by Hannah Arendt. Te case of the ‘erased’ of Slovenia sheds new light on this assumption that was supposedly put  to rest afer World War II. We  lack a comprehensive paradigm for grasping what citizenship means today in and to our societies. My thesis is that there are currently three ways to understand the notion. These different views tend to merge and overlap in the today’s debate, furthering misunderstandings. I will account for different conceptions of the citizenship by looking at the opposite of citizenry. Te political model holds the subject (sujet) in opposition to the citizen (citoyen), entailing problems related to the democratic quality of institutions. Law and jurisprudence look at the citizenship by trying to limit the numerous hard cases arising in the  world of migration where the opposite of the citizen is the alien and the stateless. While in social sciences the citizenship is the opposite of the exclusion and represents social membership. Therefore, my aim is to distinguish and clear out these three different semantic areas.

This essay is presented in four sections: First, I briefly recall the case of the ‘erased’ of Slovenia, which presents  us with one of the more poignant examples of statelessness in the  today’s world, so their status can be easily related to the problems that the aforementioned theoretical shortcomings entail. The ‘erased’ had their residency permits and by extension, civil rights as well, revoked by the Slovene government in the aftermath of the break-up of Yugoslavia. This erasure was ruled to be unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Slovenia but so far it has by and  large remained only at that ruling, with  little additional legal action, which has prompted complaints from the Ombudsman’s Office and Amnesty International. Tis issue is tied to some of the findings of Hannah Arendt, who claimed that human rights often proved to be ineffective when  faced with  significant numbers of people who were not  citizens of any specific country. Although in the aftermath of WW2 measures to end this situation of statelessness were progressively taken by the international community, there are still cases of a legal vacuum where people could be deprived of their fundamental rights. And as long as human rights remain largely declarative and as  long as  there  is a glaring  lack of  international agencies of  judicial enforcement, we can claim that Arendt’s paradox of human rights has not been yet fully overcome.

The second section focuses on discourse analysis of the citizenship. There is no doubt that the  citizenship nowadays represents a much broader subject than it did only a couple of decades ago, however, if anything, this has only caused its meaning to become more vague. Since the late 1990’s scholars have increasingly directed attention towards interdisciplinary perspectives covering the fields of politics, sociology, history and cultural studies that move beyond conventional notions of the citizenship, but the understanding of the citizenship itself often lingers  on  traditional  assessments,  characterised  by  clear-cut  disciplinary  divides. This disciplinary entrenchment has led to the effect of deepening misunderstandings, and attempts  to bridge  the divide between various perspectives facing increasing difficulties. So it becomes clear that we lack a comprehensive model  for understanding  the notion of  the  ‘citizenship’,  and  to  remedy  that, rather than simply asking “what is citizenship?” as that would give no clear answer, we shall ask what is opposed to the citizenship. 

I will provide the answer to that question in the third section, where attention is directed to the composition of the three separate semantic areas that are connected  to  the  term “citizenship.” These areas correspond  to  three  separate figures of opposition: Te subject, the alien and the excluded, which form the foundation  of  three  basic  dichotomies  (citizenship/subjecthood;  citizenship/being a foreigner; citizenship/exclusion). And from this we can extract various meanings of the citizenship: in the realm of political science, ’citizenship’ means the ‘non-subject’; in legal science, ‘citizenship’ means the ‘non-alien’; and in social science, ‘citizenship’ means ‘non-exclusion’ from participation in the social network of a group. I shall focus on the structure, content and origin of these dichotomies, and also on the kind of problems they are  trying  to resolve.

Finally, I will point to an array of questions that the citizenship raises in the today’s complex society. Some of them deal with political rights of the Poles living in the UK, citizenship issues of the Russians in Estonia and the status of the Hungarian  ethnic minorities  in Romania,  Slovakia  and  Serbia.  Furthermore, we may notice an alarming  surge of perverse effects  that  the customary  legal perspective has on citizenship such as the increase of cases of statelessness and multiple  nationalities,  besides  new  phenomena  such  as    the  so-called  “legal tourism.” On top of that, Europe is facing an increasing wave of nationalism and social  integration  issues, which come  in wake of the general economic downturn, activism against the Bolkenstein directive and recent jurisprudence of the ECJ in the cases Rüfert, Viking Line and Laval. In light of all this we can conclude that citizenship studies require  less ambiguous tools than those prevailing  in  literature. Te first step  towards achieving  this  is  to give up hoping  for any understanding of “citizenship” that encompasses all the different meanings mentioned above. Te only way to take them all in is to use a very vague idea of  “citizenship”  that  promotes unsuitable  policies  and no  real  solutions.  So  I suggest that we should rather focus on the tripartition scheme and discourse analysis discussed above, as they can be useful tools for decision makers so as to design as consistent policies as possible, and also for our shedding new light on transnational citizenship building and cross-state handling of status-related issues.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Klub Revus , 2009. Vol. 9, 29-44 p.
Keyword [en]
political, legal concept of citizenship, sociological concept of citizenship, human rights, the erased of Slovenia, stateless people, statelessness, right to have rights, legal status
National Category
Philosophy Law and Society Political Science (excluding Public Administration Studies and Globalization Studies)
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-181791OAI: diva2:557717

Slovenian version transl. by Jernej Ogrin.

Available from: 2012-10-01 Created: 2012-09-28 Last updated: 2012-10-01Bibliographically approved

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