Citizenship in Question: Evidentiary Birthright and Statelessness.

AuthorSorensen, Ben
PositionBook review

Lawrance, Benjamin N. and Jacqueline Stevens, eds. Citizenship in Question: Evidentiary Birthright and Statelessness. Duke University Press Books, 2017. 312 pages. Paperback, $29.95.

The problems of citizenship, birthright, emigration, and statelessness have become predominant in the last few years. As Syrians flocked to Europe, the European nations dealt with questions of what it means to be a national in each country, as well as decided on just who they wanted to allow to enter and who they felt they could reject. Also, America itself had to deal with questions of national identity, refugees, and citizenship as it struggled with refugees and immigration. It perhaps goes without saying that the presidential election of 2016 brought questions of immigration and national identity to the fore, and with this the questions surrounding DACA and transient undocumented populations certainly gained the interest of the general public and the interest of those in academia.

Indeed, the problems of recent events are not new, and many authors took to writing books on citizenship. Many of these works dealt with civics in America and abroad; even Oxford University Press in 2008 published one of its A Very Short Introduction series on citizenship for both the student of civics and the general readership. Also, many monographs also document the legalities of citizenship and statelessness; many of these are conglomerate collections of essays, such as Brad Blitz and Maureen Lynch's seminal Statelessness and Citizenship: A Comparative Study on the Benefits of Nationality, published in 2011. Yet, for all the great insights that many of these works give students of political science, civics, and history, they all seem to have one fatal flaw: they assume that the legality of citizenship is hard fast and always based on empirical, provable evidence. Hence, in 2017, and with perfect timing, Benjamin Lawrance and Jacqueline Stevens edited and published a volume that does quite the opposite of all previous volumes: they begin with the premise that citizenship is, at its most fundamental, arbitrary.

Benjamin Lawrance is the Hon. Barber B. Conable Jr. Endowed Professor of International Studies and Professor of History and Anthropology at Rochester Institute of Technology. Jacqueline Stevens is Professor of Political Science and the founding director of the Deportation Research Clinic in the Buffett Institute for Global Studies at Northwestern University. Together, they...

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