Passport island

The market for EU citizenship in Cyprus

Theodoros Rakopoulos
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This book explores the global market for passports, delivering an analysis of citizenship’s commodification and how it is entrenched with social inequality. Through ethnography in the Republic of Cyprus, a country which for years had arguably the most successful “citizenship by investment” programme in the world, I analyse the selling of citizenship as a local phenomenon with global repercussions, as well as a global condition with local effects. The monograph, uniquely for studies of new forms of citizenship and indeed of “golden passports”, unearths the historical and social underpinnings of the citizenship industry, which are outcomes of global processes (offshoring, financial crises and elite mobilities) as well as their local histories. Cyprus is the EU’s easternmost country, a post-colonial, post-war divided polity that accommodates Russian and Russophone elite migration, where the tiers of citizenship’s complexity operate simultaneously, lodging passport commodification. In the latter part of the book I also extend the analysis from Cyprus to assess the international market for passports at large, as the industry spans many other places worldwide. The ethnography shows how the golden passport market relies on citizenship and wealth inequality and exacerbates both of these aspects of global inequity. At the same time, the book shows how “global” citizenship is a very local process, as the descriptive analysis of the Republic of Cyprus’ institutional life is not a mere “background” to but lies at the centre of citizenship by investment.

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