Thinking about Justice from “the Outside” of Nationality: Re-Thinking the Legal and National Dimensions of Citizenship

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Title: Thinking about Justice from “the Outside” of Nationality: Re-Thinking the Legal and National Dimensions of Citizenship
Author: Silva, Grant Joseph, 1982-
Abstract: This dissertation examines the legal and national dimensions of citizenship, focusing on the nature of social justice, multiculturalism and state formation in light of an increasing "migrant" population in the United States. For many individuals, Hispanic people and undocumented immigrants are outside of stereotypic understandings of "American" and the legal structure of the United States. Seeking to question this belief and the subsequent political atmosphere it engenders, this work presents the challenges that Hispanic people and undocumented persons pose to the central tenants of liberal political theory and the politics of recognition. Liberal theories of justice that assume the nation-state as their starting point and ignore the international elements of 21st century societies need reconsideration. Although John Rawls's work remains central to this tradition, by constricting his theory of justice to a closed, self-sustaining polity that assumes all persons behind the veil of ignorance to be citizens, the trajectory of liberal political thought after his work evades the question of citizenship and the possibility of social justice for undocumented people. Although conversations about "multicultural citizenship" are abundant in North American political contexts, these discussions focus on the national representation of minority peoples and ignore the legal aspects of citizenship and the reality of undocumented immigration. Philosophers that do think about undocumented persons argue for international theories of justice, human rights or cosmopolitanism. These are positive steps in thinking about social justice for immigrants, but they only matter insofar as they do not impinge upon state sovereignty and render social justice for immigrants a secondary issue. While Latin American political thinkers such as Enrique Dussel ground the origins of political power in the citizenry of states, they nonetheless assume the category of "citizen" to be uncontested. Thus, even in settings where radical political change is underway, the basis of state membership remains to be defined and freed of racial (or even "post-racial") expectations. I undertake this project in terms of Estadounidense or "Unitedstatesian" citizenship, a concept that combats ethnocentric beliefs about the meaning of "American" while also informing of more open understandings of legal citizenship and porous conceptions of the state.
Description: xi, 202 p.
Date: 2011-09

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