Statelessness and Citizenship
Camps and the Creation of Political Space
Routledge – 2013 – 196 pages
What does it mean to be a citizen? In depth research with a stateless population in Bangladesh has revealed that, despite liberal theory’s reductive vision, the limits of political community are not set in stone. The Urdu-speaking population in Bangladesh exemplify some of the key problems facing uprooted populations and their experience provides insights into the long term unintended consequences of major historical events. Set in a site of camp and non-camp based displacement, it illustrates the nuances of political identity and lived spaces of statelessness that Western political theory has too long hidden from view. Using Bangladesh as a case study, Statelessness and Citizenship: Camps and the creation of political space argues that the crude binary oppositions of statelessness and citizenship are no longer relevant. Access to and understandings of citizenship are not just jurally but socially, spatially and temporally produced.
Unpicking Agamben’s distinction between ‘political beings’ and ‘bare life’, the book considers experiences of citizenship through the camp as a social form. The camps of Bangladesh do not function as bounded physical or conceptual spaces in which denationalized groups are altogether divorced from the polity. Instead, citizenship is claimed at the level of everyday life, as the moments in which formal status is transgressed. Moreover, once in possession of ‘formal status’ internal borders within the nation-state render ‘rights-bearing citizens’ effectively ‘stateless’, and the experience of ‘citizens’ is very often equally uneven. While ‘statelessness’ may function as a cold instrument of exclusion, certainly, it is neither fixed nor static; just as citizenship is neither as stable nor benign as the dichotomy would suggest. Using these insights, the book develops the concept of ‘political space’ – an analysis of the way history and space inform the identities and political subjectivity available to people. In doing so, it provides an analytic approach of relevance to wider problems of displacement, citizenship and ethnic relations.
"Statelessness and Citizenship is a meticulously researched and theoretically ground-breaking study. Victoria Redclift provides us in her monograph not only with a compelling and vivid portrait of Bangladesh's largely forgotten Urdu-speaking minority, but also with a highly original and provocative discourse on the nature of citizenship itself". – Prof. David Lewis, London School of Economics and Political Science, UK
"Statelessness and Citizenship is a an eloquent and impassioned exploration of the shifting boundaries of citizenship in today's ever changing global environment. It is a book of feeling but also of reflective depth that will arouse the interest of those who are concerned to know more about the realities of being stateless and struggling to be heard". – Prof. John Solomos, Department of Sociology, University of Warwick
"This volume addresses the position of the ‘stateless’ Bihari minority in Bangladesh and the intersection of postcolonial legacies of displacement and discrimination with contemporary models and practices of citizenship. It is a fascinating piece of work that combines theoretical sophistication of political theory with rich ethnographic material". – Prof. Michael Keith, University of Oxford, UK
1. Introduction 2. Spatial Formations of Exclusion 3. The 'socio-spatial' contours of 'community' 4. The Crafting of Citizenship: Property, Territory and the Post-colonial State 5. The 'Social Field of Citizenship' in Bangladesh: Past and Present 6. Discourses of 'integration': Capital, Movement and 'Modernity' 7. Conclusion
Dr Victoria Redclift is a Research Associate in the Department of Sociology at the University of Manchester. She researched at the Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit in Bangladesh and won the LSE’s first four year Bonnart-Braunthal PhD Scholarship in the Department of Sociology.