Volume 81, Number 1

April 2006

Home and Away: The Construction of Citizenship in an Emigration Context

Kim Barry

Scholarly discourse on immigration is abundant, but little attention has been paid to emigration as such, and particularly to citizenship within the emigration context. This Article examines the ways in which citizenship has been reconfigured by emigrants and emigration states, and begins to construct a broadened conception of citizenship based on these actual practices. Citizenship as experienced by emigrants, or “external citizenship,” has two dimensions: formal legal status and the lived experience of participation in national life. The Article highlights the strong economic incentives for emigration states to strengthen ties with their absent citizens. It also emphasizes emigrants’ active stance in shaping their new role in the national life of their home countries. As emigrant states and emigrants negotiate the terms of their relationship, a new set of citizenship constructs has begun to emerge. States have newly styled emigrants as heroic citizens, as they seek to encourage emigrants to direct financial resources homeward, in the form of remittances, direct contributions styled as taxes, and investment. In approving dual nationality, states have allowed emigrants to retain legal membership at home, even as they acquire citizenship abroad. Emigrants themselves have begun to assert political claims in their home states, and in a number of states, emigrants have acquired the right to vote in national elections while abroad. Emigrants also continue to influence politics in their home states in other ways, including running for office, making contributions to candidates, and traveling home to vote there. The Article concludes by offering some initial thoughts on the ways in which emigrant citizenship might evolve in the future.