This chapter adds more fodder to presenting and problematising the specific sociocultural context in which a citizenship by investment (CΒΙ, or CIP) programme develops. Reviewing the economics (offshoring and crisis) and politics (moral discourses and choices on crisis) that boosted the CBI, I here offer a rare insight into how these programmes come about. Existing studies discuss CBIs but, because they are not ethnographic, ignore the social life of the economic citizenship policies creation and application. To fill this important gap by focusing on one case – the formation and development of the Cypriot CBI as a sociohistorical product – I here offer insights drawing from the moral relativity and historical awareness of Cypriots faced with a major crisis. I argue that the moral conceptualisation of the 2013 banking crisis promoted the solidification of the CBI in Cyprus, the policy being the outcome of an offshoring history, a crisis backdrop and a moral panic promoted by liberal elites. Generally, I suggest that investment citizenship schemes are the outcome of world processes of international stratification, but also the products of specific, and normative (readings of) histories of local life. Cypriot informants believe that the CBI policy was the “oxygen” that the country needed in a time of “suffocation” – a time when Cyprus experienced the outcome of a global crunch and was of “junk status”. That peopled local history in countries that introduce CBIs is in many ways global itself: after all, the 2013 banking crisis in Cyprus was by definition an international event.
This short chapter delivers the book’s main thrust, already developed in the previous chapter: global citizens exist because of two types of macro-sociological inequities that inform and animate the whole industry. The book’s main contribution is an ethnographic exploration of the dialectics between two types of inequality. Firstly, an established inequity exists among passports in the world. The valuating private institutions like Henley measure a passport’s worth in relation to each other. We thus have the global birthright lottery: citizenship is inherently unequal, as it situates a person in an intentionally stratified environment, where being Austrian is “worth” more than being Ghanaian. Secondly, an established inequity exists among citizens of any nation-state. In some cases this can mean that the internal apartheid welfare-related regime, attached as it is to the rights-bearing institution of citizenship. In most cases this simply means that the elites can partake in the global sharing of the pie using some of their fortune to overcome the asset they lag behind from their co-elite partners elsewhere – a “good” citizenship. Finally, the chapter and the book also contribute the idea that to further understand citizenship we need to have a deeper ethnographic account of property. Citizenship is historically an institution for the propertied lot, and the citizenship by investment industry renders this local fact a global reality. Investigating the relations between property and statehood in the ethnographic pragmatics of a post-colonial state, in this book and elsewhere, has been my main contribution.
The introduction discusses empirical and conceptual issues, showcasing the book’s main contributions. On the empirical front, the intro explains what a golden passport means, how jus pecuniae (the right of money) creates a citizenship that lies beyond ancestry and territory, and how golden passports rely on global inequality and elite mobility. Regarding the conceptual domain, the chapter provides an anthropology of passports as artefacts of power, as well as a problematisation of how these documents correspond to nationhood, mobility and citizenship, as well as the nuances among these themes. Further, the chapter discusses the foundational notion of political community and how passports articulate with it – as well as examines how Karl Polanyi’s vision on the expansion of the market into the social realm finds in golden passports a creeping example. The chapter proposes that in order to advance the anthropology of the state we need a serious rendering of the sociohistorical makings of property rights and politics in the societies we study. It concludes that while scholars have noted that citizenship is not an equaliser but a culprit of economic and political inequality, they have only focused on citizenship inequality, when class and other forms of social inequality should also be part of the conversation. What is more, as we lack ethnographies that develop this conceptual fact, this book’s analysis of national passport’s commodification contributes a unique insight into understanding global processes of inequity.
As selling passports is an exceptional occurrence that bridges state and market, and as the Republic of Cyprus is an exceptional polity with post-conflict and post-colonial scars, it is not obvious what it means to do fieldwork on the golden passports phenomenon and in Cyprus. This chapter explores location work: what it means to research these social sites, i.e. the passport industry and the Republic issuing the passports-for-sale. I show how an anthropology of policy is located at the fissures of state and civil society, at the entry points to statehood that citizenship by investment experts facilitate, arguing how an ethnography analysing a transformative policy should reflect on the status of statehood and should make of the state its locus of analysis. I also unpack the sociocultural richness pertaining to the country and the domain of practice and belief that feeds in the formation of the CIP policy in dynamic ways. I thus present the cultural and economic history of statehood in Cyprus, discussing at length its bicommunal nature, its contested boundaries and the monopoly of the state by Greek Cypriots. I particularly focus on the offshore history of market and state in post-division Cyprus, providing the first anthropological account of this sociohistorical condition to date. In conclusion, I argue that the offshore world developed in Cyprus for decades has encouraged a “global vernacular” among locals – a worldly lexicon that articulates this post-colonial small country to global flows and processes.
This chapter focuses on one side of the golden passport transaction: the selling part. Specifically, it offers an ethnographic insight into the key people of the passport industry: the brokers, or facilitators, who pave the way for the production of golden passports. Exploring the thought and practice of these traders, the chapter examines their specific work and life choices. Aiming to illuminate the inner life of CBIs, I am positioning my interlocutors’ CIP practice diffused in the larger area of their life experience, and thus am also paying attention to the longer biographies in their trade, as well as personal biographies. Brokers belong to three prosperous fields (lawyers, auditors and real estate developers), although there is stratification in each profession – “big and small fish” exist in the market pool. The ethnography focuses precisely on big and less-than-big lawyers, real estate sellers and owners, and auditors, examining their thoughts, beliefs and lifeworlds. It argues that these “makers” of CBIs, the people that staff the process for naturalisations, perform more than economic brokerage in the formation of economic citizenship, as they introduce clients to a new cosmos (that of a Mediterranean island), and are often endowed with skills and preferences from their clients’ cosmos, too (Russia or China). As the passport encapsulates cultural processes, its brokers’ main skill is to mobilise “cultural ambassador” qualities to serve their clients. Brokers ironically coming from left-wing backgrounds mobilise experiences in Soviet and post-Soviet Russia, where many have strong links, to serve Russian elites today.
This chapter takes us beyond Cyprus to examine the global market for passports, providing a critical review of all the existing (in 2022) programmes of citizenship by investment in the world. Discussing the details and providing a short history for each, its attention spans cases from the Caribbean to the Middle East and the Pacific. This way, it acts as a critical presentation of the current state of play in the CBI/golden passport industry globally, and in that sense it works both independently from the book and as a standalone key contribution to the sociological debate about the commodification of citizenship. Indeed, it provides a most comprehensive and concise overview of the industry, and is backed by a strong argument to make sense of it, as existing descriptions refrain from critical commentary. Instead, the piece argues that the fact that some countries offer citizenship is the outcome of the relativity of citizenship, and postulates that it is social inequality in both local and global terms that allows for the global golden passport industry to thrive. National and “global” citizenship correlate with global inequality in that they are intricately and dialectically linked. Global inequality on a political level feeds into the formation and development of “global citizenship” and economic citizenship. The economic stratification that exists both within the societies where the applicants come from and across the global scale, trumps citizenship inequality, and establishes citizenship – rather than a marker in the global index of passports – as a tool for the rich.
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.
The ethnographic narrative in this chapter analyses the buyers of golden passports and others in the Russophone community of Limassol that assist them to do so. This community involves people working as promoters and sellers of the Cypriot passport to fellow Russians, or Russophones providing financial, banking and other services to the core group of passport-holding elites. Bridging the gaps between an ethnography understanding expat communities as players in offshoring, and the more general analyses of offshoring processes, I here examine a “Russian” milieu that extends far wider than those naturalised through golden passports. I do this with two aims in mind. Firstly, I show how what we call expat communities can be the solidification of offshoring processes. Secondly, I argue that the offshored world described here, peaks on what I analytically call “offshore citizenship” – the purchase of golden passports which guarantee safety for people and money. My argument is that “offshore citizens” in Cyprus seek a “safe harbour” (to borrow an interlocutor’s phrase), a hub away from the residues of regulation in the contemporary capitalist regime, with its various fissures and frictions that deter their activity and even sense of self. Showing how the global citizenship utopia is materialised locally, through parts of the Russophone community, the chapter shows how what we often see as “expat communities” can form not on leisure but rather as enclaves of safety that offer offshore convenience for certain elite community members.
Borders of Desire takes a novel approach to the study of borders: rather than seeing them only as obstacles to the fulfilment of human desires, this collection focuses on how borders can also be productive of desire. Based on long-term ethnographic engagement with sites along the eastern borders of Europe, particularly in the Baltics and the Balkans, the studies in this volume illuminate how gendered and sexualized desires are generated by the existence of borders and how they are imagined. The book takes a performative approach, emphasizing not what borders are, but what borders do – and in this case, what they produce. Borders are thus treated less as artefacts of desires and more as sources of desire: a border’s existence, which marks a difference between here and there, can trigger imaginations about what might be on the other side, creating new desires expressed as aspirations, resentments, and actions including physical movements across borders for pleasure or work, while also as enactments of political ideals or resistance. As the chapters show, sometimes these desires spring from orientalising imaginaries of the other, sometimes from economically inspired fantasies of a different life, and sometimes from ethnosexual projections or reimaginings of political pasts and futures. Taken as a whole, Borders of Desire offers new perspectives on the work borders do, as well as on the gendered and sexed lives of those in and from the eastern borders of Europe, and the persistent East/West symbolic divide that continues to permeate European political and social life.
Not all borders are the same, and they have a habit of both changing over time and being different according to where you have come from and where you are going. Asylum seekers and other migrants arriving on the island of Lesvos were attempting to cross into the European Union and had mostly come from war-torn regions further to the east and south, and were looking for a better life. Yet there were different kinds of borders being crossed on the island, triggered by different kinds of desire: Euro-American women visiting the island because of its association with the poet Sappho were crossing from what they saw as heteronormative space into lesbian-friendly space; and some women residents of the island would cross the Greek–Turkish border on a weekly ferry to go shopping (both for goods and occasionally illicit affairs) in the bazaar in the Turkish coastal town of Ayvalik. The chapter shows that the borders that people cross or transgress generate different kinds of desires according to the historical moment and where people are coming from.