Citizenship in the age of concrete human rights

Authors: Dimitry Kochenov


The core contradictions this article dwells on are two. The first contradiction promoted by the concept of citizenship arises between an abstract claim of equality among those who ‘belong’ and citizenship’s consequential nature in terms of the unequal distribution of rights and liabilities in the world, as citizenships vary radically in quality. More still, in a world where inequalities are spacialised and borders signify exclusion from opportunity and – as long as these are policed by citizenship – blood-based segregation between the haves and have nots, citizenship emerges as the core tool of exclusion of the racialized ‘other’, not belonging to the global aristocracy of the former colonizers, the ‘super citizens’. The abstractness of citizenship is at the centre of the second contradiction that comes to light with renewed force today. This contradiction arises between citizenship and rights, which, in the age of human rights ideology, are, precisely, concrete and individualisable.

Keywords: Citizenship – Membership – Inequalities – Super citizens – Borders