Statelessness and the Return of Banishment

Nasser, Hana, Government - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Balfour, Lawrie, AS-Politics (POLI), University of Virginia

This dissertation aims to develop a new theory of statelessness. My approach builds upon the central Arendtian insight that the stateless are “the most symptomatic group in contemporary politics,” and thus, analyzing the global rise of statelessness and a willingness on the behalf of states to create stateless persons gives one insight into the central political dynamics that characterize a particular international order. However, I also depart from the Arendtian paradigm of statelessness in several important respects. First, rather than examine the totalitarian conditions that give rise to statelessness, I examine why and how democratic states create stateless persons. Second, I theorize the creation of stateless persons through citizenship revocation as a political punishment that in a Foucauldian vein has subject constituting effects. Finally, I argue that understanding the rise of statelessness through the revocation of citizenship requires that political theorists grapple with the “Muslim question” since citizenship revocation laws that have led to statelessness disproportionately target Muslim citizens. Taken together, I argue that these three dimensions of the imposition of statelessness through citizenship revocation, that it is a punishment utilized by democratic states, that it has subject constituting effects, and that it is inextricably bound up in our contemporary moment with the “Muslim question” suggests that the value of citizenship, defined as both a legal status and an affectively charged notion that denotes belonging in a national community, is constituted not just through its selective withholding from certain groups of immigrants and migrants broadly defined as “foreigners,” but through the turning of citizens into foreigners.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
stateless, statelessness, Schmitt, Foucault, banishment, Islam, Immigration, citizenship revocation
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