Antinomy of Citizenship: Negotiating Power or Social Existence?


Antinomy of Citizenship: Negotiating Power or Social Existence?

Said Adejumobi1

The discourse on citizenship has assumed a global phenomenon. The debate resonates in all parts of the world from the Balkans to the Caucuses, South Asia to Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East. Indeed, the issue was becoming a global priority before the rude interruption of the ‘War on Terror’ (WOT), which seemed to have now engaged the attention of the world and is also consuming substantial world resources. How far the WOT may positively link up with the question of citizenship is yet to be seen. The tendency is that the WOT may adversely affect the resolution of the citizenship question in many countries as the values of democracy, civil liberties, the protection of individual and group rights, and social justice which are crucial to the resolution of the citizenship question are under siege in the WOT. The military occupation of Iraq by the United States in the name of the WOT suggests how the rights of nations and peoples are being undermined in flagrant violation of international law and the citizenship rights of the people concerned. Militarised imperialism has become a substitute for global democratic governance under a regime of the WOT. It is this tendency that Mary Kaldor, Helmut Anheier and Marlies Glasius describe as one of the manifestations of ‘regressive globalism’.2

In the United States of America, the racial profiling which the WOT has elicited has seen Arabs and Muslim Americans being objects of hostile attack and considered as belonging to the ‘enemy camp’. Hundreds of young Arab and Muslim men (sometimes women too) have been under surveillance, picked up for questioning and detained indefinitely.3 The Patriot Act, which many countries have been forced to emulate, gives the government of the United States sweeping powers to conduct secret searches, eavesdropping, and detention without trial. The values of freedom and democracy which the WOT is supposed to protect have become its greatest victims. Racial and religious tension and the erosion of

citizenship rights of Arab and Muslim Americans is the price for the WOT in the

United States.

But why has this question of citizenship become a recurring decimal in many countries in contemporary times? Does it have anything to do with the increasing powerlessness and failure of the state under neo-liberal market hegemony? Is citizenship crisis simply an elite induced crisis or is it a socially rooted one located in the structural character of affected countries and

Citizenship is an

instrument of

political exclusion

and social closure

through which a

state seeks to create

a common identity

for itself and denies

such to others

societies? What is the claim of citizenship on resources? Is it a general social good or an opportunistic benefit and struggle on the claim over resources by privileged groups and individuals? What is the historiography of the citizenship question in Africa? Does it have a colonial pedigree; if so, why did it take so long before its conflagration in many societies? What is the linkage of citizenship with the structural and spatial character of poverty in many countries? Is citizenship discourse another euphemism for the struggle for a welfare state or social democracy, which seemed to have become unpopular with the rise of a market based democracy? These are some of the raging questions on citizenship, which show the diverse forms in which the discourse on citizenship has taken. Our task in this special edition of the journal is not to provide answers to these questions nor is that the objective in this introduction; our focus is simply to shed light on and elevate the

discourse on some areas of those issues. What I seek to do in this brief introduction is to lay bare some of the preliminary issues in the citizenship discourse. What is it and what is it not? Why is it contentious in many countries and what are the dimensions it has assumed in African countries with its varying impacts on the peace, stability and security of many African states.


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