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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Unpacking "Transnational Citizenship"


What “counts” as transnational citizenship? Like the related notions of global or transnational civil society, the term’s appeal to internationalists is greater than its conceptual precision. However, a wide range of empirical trends do raise questions about the nation-state-based approach to the concept of citizenship. In an effort to avoid conceptual stretching, this essay assesses the degree to which the concept of transnational citizenship helps to address issues raised by “globalization from below.” Because many approaches to citizenship focus on the dynamics and texture of participation, this review incorporates recent findings in sociology, anthropology, and geography into the political science discussion. The essay is organized by propositions that bring together analysis of two distinct empirical literatures, on transnational civil society and on migrant civic and political participation. The review concludes by contrasting two cross-cutting sets of definitional choices. The discussion is framed by a recognition that definitions of citizenship vary along two main dimensions: in their emphasis on rights versus membership, and in high versus low intensity. Only a very bounded definition of transnational citizenship holds up under conceptual scrutiny, limited to what is also called dual or multiple citizenship for migrants.

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