From the Politics of Citizenship to Citizenship as Politics: On Universal Citizenship, Nation, and the Figure of the Undocumented Immigrant
AuthorGuzmán, Ricardo Andrés
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractThe present project draws on recent work in philosophy--primarily that of Alain Badiou--in order to re-conceptualize the concepts of "citizen," "citizenship" and "nation." I aim to recuperate the notion of universal citizenship and reframe the immigration debate in the U.S. by proposing a conception of citizenship that does not rely on identity or state recognition. I define the citizen as a collective subject made up of anyone who in a given juridico-political situation transforms that situation on the basis of an affirmation of equality. I propose that citizenship, to the extent that it transforms the basic organizational coordinates of a situation, is itself on the border of legality/illegality. In chapter one, I theorize universal citizenship as an egalitarian democratic act foundational of a new order and, drawing on Habermas (1995) and Hobsbawm (1992), identify in the French Revolution two articulations of the relationship between citizenship and nation: one that sees nation as pre-existing and determining citizenship, and another that takes citizenship to be constitutive of nation. I argue that these conceptions still underpin competing understandings of politics today, especially with regard to the role of identity in politics. In chapter two, I analyze the confluence between the criminalization of undocumented immigration in the U.S. and neoliberal governmentality. I argue that a politics thought from the perspective of the undocumented immigrant also points to the necessity of affirming a political logic over economic imperatives. I claim that the 2006 immigrant rights protests in the U.S. can be understood as instances of universal citizenship to the extent that they included undocumented people and thus challenged a statist distinction foundational of U.S. political order: the difference between citizen and non-citizen as regulating access to the legal right to act politically. In the last chapter, I read Oscar Zeta Acosta's The Revolt of the Cockroach People as proposing a generic, and thus non-identitarian and universalistic, conception of the political collective in the very category of "cockroach." I highlight the ways in which it resonates with the revolutionary idea of nation identified by Hobsbawm and Habermas.
Degree ProgramGraduate College