Liberalism, Nationalism, and uses of the Word Citizenship: Canadian Discourses

  • Author / Creator
    McLane, Patrick B
  • The word citizenship is a keyword in many political debates, as well as legislation and public policy. Citizenship studies scholars debate the meaning, extent and effects of citizenship and these debates have intensified in recent years. This dissertation takes a different approach; it explores how the term citizenship is used in selected discourses. By treating citizenship as a word and examining its uses, rather than treating citizenship as a socially constructed being or concept, the following dissertation departs from much work in contemporary citizenship studies. While many scholars are engaged in debates over what citizenship is or should be, I will argue that if one accepts the precepts of these debates, one mistakenly attributes being to citizenship and thereby reinforce hegemonic uses of this word.
    To examine citizenship as a term in influential discourses, I begin with canonical texts of political theory before turning to uses of the word citizenship in selected Canadian discourses: for example, in discourses that speak of “Canadian citizenship,” or “Canada as a country of equal citizens.” Close readings of discourses that employ the words “citizenship” and “Canada” together reveal how citizenship is frequently enunciated as a political identity; as something a person can gain or be denied; and as related to national “sovereignty.” Within this context, the dissertation focuses on three key questions: 1) How do common uses of the term citizenship lead individuals to think about themselves and others as political actors? 2) How do the discourses examined justify the way the label “citizen” is assigned to some, but withheld from others? 3) How do the discourses examined relate “citizenship” to “nation” and to “sovereignty”?
    In responding to these questions a specific thesis will be defended; namely, that the discourses examined consistently posit that citizenship is an “artificial” creation (a product of social action, laws and policy), and that Canadian citizenship is often defined by contrasting it with “naturalized” forms of identity such as race and ethnicity. In making this argument, this dissertation makes a contribution to social and political thought by focusing critical analysis upon the notion that citizenship is an artificial being or construct. To repeat, from the perspective adopted in this dissertation, citizenship is just a word, and when we treat citizenship as artificial we mistakenly attribute existence to citizenship. Adopting the perspective that citizenship is just a word, rather than an artificial being, raises the possibility of attending to how this word is used to shape the way we think of ourselves and others, to introduce categorical divisions into human populations, to authorize distinct legal processes and entitlements for distinctly categorized persons (e.g. citizens and non-citizens), and to present fictions of well-ordered, even sovereign, nation-states. Indeed, the conclusion argues that treating citizenship as a word opens the possibility of asking why citizenship is a central term in contemporary political discourses and whether we really want it to be. Questioning the word citizenship and the consequences of its uses is important because doing so may foster political interventions that attend to what happens to bodies coded as non-citizens, to local communities as opposed to statist projects, and to material realities more than political artifices.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Spring 2015
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
  • Department
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Adams, Eric (Law)
    • Kellogg, Catherine (Political Science)
    • Hogeveen, Bryan (Sociology)
    • van Rijswijk, Honni (Law - University of Technology, Sydney)