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Tendayi Bloom

In order to be seen as a full participant in the global system, a person must usually first be recognised as a citizen of a state. In a world in which not every person is a citizen of a state, and in which states exclude people from full membership, this produces contradictions. For example, it means that when a person is locally excluded, this can in fact produce exclusion from recognition as a person in the international system as a whole. This chapter shows how this exclusion can lead to both invisibility and hypervisibility with respect to global governance projects. First, those excluded from citizenship can be rendered invisible in discussions about sustainable development. That is, rather than being merely ‘left behind’, they are in fact ‘left out’ entirely. Meanwhile, the same individuals can be made hypervisible when it comes to migration governance. Policies ostensibly directed at managing migration in fact target people insofar as they do not have the documentary proof that they are eligible for inclusion in a particular state. This means that the work to address the problems associated with statelessness cannot only fall with UNHCR, the agency with a mandate in this area. This work must be done in every area in which this deference to citizenship currently either leaves stateless people out of consideration or makes them targets. Crucially, this work will require the expert participation of people with direct experience of statelessness.

in Statelessness, governance, and the problem of citizenship

When a person is not recognised as a citizen anywhere, they are typically referred to as ‘stateless’. This can give rise to challenges both for individuals and for the institutions that try to govern them. Statelessness, governance, and the problem of citizenship breaks from tradition by relocating the ‘problem’ to be addressed from one of statelessness to one of citizenship. It problematises the governance of citizenship – and the use of citizenship as a governance tool. It traces the ‘problem of citizenship’ from global and regional governance mechanisms to national and even individual levels. Part I examines how statelessness is produced and maintained, for example through global development efforts and refugee protection instruments. Part II traces the lived reality of statelessness, starting at conception and the issuance of birth certificates, then exploring the experiences of youth, workers, and older people. Part III demands a rethinking of the governance of citizenship. It interrogates existing efforts to address challenges associated with statelessness and suggests alternatives. Contributions span global regions and contributors include activists, affected persons, artists, lawyers, leading academics from a range of disciplines, and national and international policy experts. Written text, visual art, and poetry are also used to examine complex concepts central to this discussion. Statelessness, governance, and the problem of citizenship rejects the idea that statelessness and stateless persons are a problem. It argues that the reality of statelessness helps to uncover a more fundamental challenge: the problem of citizenship.

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Opening a conversation about statelessness, governance, and the problem of citizenship
Tendayi Bloom and Lindsey N. Kingston

According to international law, a person is considered ‘stateless’ if they are not recognised as a national by any country under the operation of its law. International law, then, provides an important dimension to understanding statelessness, and it is a dimension that has often been privileged. This chapter sets out to open out the discussion of statelessness to include consideration of more dimensions and how they intersect with each other. It shows how opening out the discussion of statelessness in this way provides new avenues for examining the often messy and complex ways in which the structures that govern society move people into and out of recognition. Central to this work is identifying the ‘problem’ that is being examined. While the traditional legal focus can make it easy to frame statelessness – and so also stateless people – as a ‘problem’ to be solved, a broader governance approach challenges this. Examining the relationship between governance and statelessness indicates that situations of statelessness are often underpinned by problems rooted in the governance of citizenship: in how citizenship is allocated, experienced, and even removed. Framing statelessness through governance, then, opens the way for new directions for studying both statelessness and governance. Crucially, this also makes it possible to develop new ways of both understanding and addressing statelessness and its implications.

in Statelessness, governance, and the problem of citizenship