Citizenship's Empire

Isin, Engin F. (2015). Citizenship's Empire. In: Isin, Engin F. ed. Citizenship after Orientalism: Transforming Political Theory. Palgrave Studies in Citizenship. London: Palgrave, pp. 263–281.




However it may have originated, during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, modern citizenship became an institution deployed for colonial and imperial campaigns to create governable (rather than merely subject) peoples. Many postcolonial nations and states inherited and then effectively instituted citizenship for governing – dividing, classifying, disciplining, regulating – peoples. We observe this development in previously colonized territories and frontiers carved up by colonial powers such as in the Americas, Africa, and Asia as well as those that were ostensibly never colonized and yet were subject to imperial interventions, such as the Ottoman and Chinese empires. Today, many seemingly intractable questions about territory, people, sovereignty, and political subjectivity that are played out in postcolonial, postoriental, or even ostensibly decolonized societies, inherit this empire and willingly or unwittingly serve its ends, unable to break the hold of its allure and seduction, if not domination. Working with this premise, this chapter draws on studies of extraterritoriality as a technology of government that enabled empires to literally make up people in both domestic and foreign territories. These studies are intended to illustrate the origins of the contemporary workings of citizenship and develop a thesis for further research.

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