Medborgarskapets rasvillkor

Nisha Kapoor skriver beskrivande i sin bok Deport, Deprive and Extradite: 21st Century State Extremism vad medborgarskapet bygger på för historia. Kapoors inlägg blir relevant i de diskussioner som pågår nu om IS-anhängare och deras återvändo.

Många låter avsky och fördömande av IS motivera deras politiska ställningstaganden, men en omformulering om vad medborgarskap innebär kommer ha långtgående konsekvenser. Med tanke på hur muslimer och muslimska organisationer lättvindigt framställts som extremister och likställts med IS de senaste åren kan villkorande av medborgarskap innebära enorm osäkerhet för främst muslimer, men också andra icke-vita medborgare. Att låta hämndlystnad och känslor vara motor för politiska ingrepp är alltid riskfyllt och kan innebära förändringar som går ut över många fler än det man avsett från början.

Med andra ord bör man göra skillnad på att fördöma och hålla IS-anhängare till svars, och att propagera för villkorande av medborgarskapet. Den förstnämnda är en enskild händelse involverande ett specifikt antal människor, medan den sistnämnda berör hela befolkningen och kommer ha konsekvenser för långt fler än bara IS-anhängare. I en tid som kännetecknas av intensiv islamofobi bör vi inte låta samma krafter som gynnas av islamofobi få utnyttja frågan om IS till att förstärka rasismen institutionellt och politiskt i Sverige. Det gäller att ha två frågor i huvudet samtidigt; att fördöma IS men också att samtidigt stå upp för att centrala principer i det politiska och sociala landskapet ska gälla jämlikt för alla – brottslingar eller inte.

Här är Kapoors inlägg:

”Since the formation of the modern state, notions of citizenship, or belonging, have relied upon multiple strategies of racial distinction, privilege and exclusion. The rationale for determining who should or should not be brought into the polity, proffered by key liberal thinkers sets out thresholds for inclusion and exclusion in raced, classed and gendered terms. The universal subject was the propertied white male, a framing contingent on the exclusion of others thought more akin to the State of Nature; recognition of the subject as human was the prerequisite for determining whether citizenship might be granted and what form it would take. As racial hierarchies informed decisions on enfranchisement in European states, they also played a fundamental role in legitimising European colonisation and the civilisationist mode of governance imposed by European powers. Civilisations outside of Europe, the logic proceeded, were not capable of self-governance precisely because they lacked the rational capacity for self-determination. John Stuart Mill, for example, proclaimed that ‘the sacred duties which civilised nations owe to the independence and nationality of each other, are not binding towards those to whom nationality and independence are either a certain evil, or, at best, a questionable good’. Over the course of colonial rule, such racial distinctions and gradations were clarified and made more sophisticated so that those deemed to be closer to the Anglo-Saxon race were afforded more privileges than those regarded as being more akin to nature. If Irish and to some extent Scottish people were considered the lesser races of the United Kingdom, for example, they were nevertheless recognised as more capable, more civilised and therefore more entitled than the colonial subjects of Jamaica. The colonial project of marking citizens and subjects relied on processes of dehumanisation. Dehumanisation was the necessary condition for justifying and legitimating unrestrained violence that sustained the political-economic project of empire.

Through the initiation, the duration and the end of formal colonisation, this logic has been continuously reinterpreted, recast in different ways in relation to different categories of racially disavowed humans. In each instance, the disciplinary techniques used to exclude or expel those marked as non-belonging or non-entitled not only enhance state powers to banish, they work sufficiently to reshape the parameters of citizenship and, by implication, notions of democracy more broadly. Where the identified threat of terrorism and the presence of terrorism suspects is used to promote the idea that citizenship ought to be contingent on the character and behaviour of a subject, even based merely on suspicion, in other instances the condition of citizenship is delimited by logics of nativism and indigeneity – whether a subject is considered to rightfully belong to the nation, to be of blood and/or soil. The contrasting rationales serve varying purposes in different moments, but nevertheless all provide legitimating techniques for withholding, and preserving the conditionality of, citizenship. It is indeed, as Giorgio Agamben indicates, in relation to the position of the ‘banned’, those subjects categorised as the ‘exception’ and vulnerable to abandonment, that the status of the political-legal subject-citizen is continuously (re)defined and understood.

Since the granting of citizenship theoretically prohibits, or at least limits, the possibility for abandonment by the state, the quest for self-determination and a meaningful ‘universal’ citizenship that accompanied the onset of decolonisation presented a new set of problems for the state, disrupting, at least in legal terms, the status differential for which colonisation allowed. As the terms of citizenship in Britain and its empire were reimagined to account for shifting power structures and Britain’s altered position in relation to its postcolonial subjects, new categories of citizenship were created, to some extent unsettling the norms of colonial racial hierarchies. Yet if the granting of citizenship was an indication of political recognition, its formalisation in legal terms was accompanied by the development of institutional arrangements to enhance the possibilities of exclusion. The paradox of this moment when legal categories of citizenship were inscribed in British law for the first time is that, as the British Nationality Act 1948 attempted to present some sense of cohesion across the Commonwealth in replacement of the Empire, while theoretically opening up citizenship, the terms of who qualified for citizenship were redefined so as to simultaneously constrain who could gain from its material benefits. The development of citizenship legislation went hand in hand with the expansion of immigration legislation so that the terms set for inclusion were continuously framed by those who were to be excluded.

In the immediate post-war period, the nod to universal suffrage following anti-colonial struggles was accompanied by the political question of how to offer inclusivity while retaining imperial hierarchies of citizenship that limited the entitlements of post/colonial subjects. As postcolonial migration increased to fill post-war labour shortages, along with rising levels of local hostility towards a growing non-white presence, discourses of civilisationism under the Empire were recast in terms of a nativism aligned with the re-envisaged British nation-state. The immigration legislation passed over the course of the 1960s and 1970s, in attempting to curb postcolonial immigration, employed multiple techniques and rationales to restrict the right of black and Asian people to settle in Britain. British nationality was redefined according to ideas of blood and soil. With the Immigration Act 1971 came the racially coded concept of patriality, which meant that only those who could prove their grandparents had been born in Britain would qualify for automatic right of abode. The impact of this legislation was to formally sever the entitlements of postcolonial subjects to British citizenship, as ‘New Commonwealth’ citizens were reformulated into ‘immigrants’. As this worked to significantly restrict levels of immigration and conceptually transform how postcolonial subjects would be legally identified, the effect was to divide families by granting settlement rights to those who had migrated before 1971 while barring spouses and children who had yet to arrive. The British Nationality Act 1981 cemented this distinction further by removing automatic citizenship rights from postcolonial subjects born in Britain and opened up space for future governments to redefine the ‘duties’ and ‘entitlements’ of citizenship as they saw fit.

As immigration restrictions curbed postcolonial migration, attention turned towards restricting migration via routes of asylum. Throughout the 1990s, a bill was passed almost every year relating to immigration, nationality and citizenship, with three pieces of primary legislation over this period culminating in the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999. These legislative measures worked through various means to essentially criminalise the very act of seeking asylum, and making the process virtually impossible through lawful procedures. The lack of availability of visas for asylum seekers, the lack of access to passports or other valid travel documentation, disbelief by the Home Office of genuine political asylum status when valid passports were produced on arrival, the criminalisation of using forged identity documents (virtually the only form of travel possible when fleeing a persecuting or failed government), and the criminalisation of those who worked to assist the arrival of asylum seekers in the UK, all contributed to morphing the attempt to claim asylum, nominally a human right, into a rhetoric of ‘illegal immigration’, thereby precluding at an earlier stage than before any legitimate applications for citizenship.

As the granting of citizenship has been withheld from various racialised populations, it has at the same time remained a precarious status for racial minority populations who have acquired it, positioned as never quite belonging to or of the nation. One of the most effective elements of the reframing of citizenship in the context of the War on Terror is that it has combined assertions of bogus asylum seekers with discourses of ‘self-segregating’ British Muslims. The precarious and conditional nature of citizenship has extended through this connection. The introduction of citizenship tests by the government as a fitting response to riots in 2001 by mostly British-born Pakistani youth, was developed into an entire programme of ‘probationary citizenship’ with multiple stages, where to fail can leave you, in some circumstances, without the right to reside in the UK at all. In 2007, Gordon Brown proposed that immigrants should pass three stages to become ‘full British citizens’. The first stage was to enter as temporary residents; after residing in Britain for five years, they couldapply to become a ‘probationary citizen’. Approval at this stage would be dependent on evidence of continuing economic contribution and successful completion of the ‘Knowledge of Life in the UK’ and English language tests. Following a minimum period of one year, those who wish to apply for full citizenship are subjected to a further round of tests to become full citizens or permanent residents. However, those who fail at this stage and did not satisfy the requirements, would ‘lose their right to stay in the UK’. This remains the basic template for movement from immigrant status to citizen. At the same time, the grounds for revoking citizenship have been extended on the grounds of national security threats. Perhaps most effective about the reframing of citizenship through the War on Terror is that it has enabled the state to return certain subjects to their dehumanised or colonised state.”

Från Nisha Kapoor, Deport, Deprive and Extradite: 21st Century State Extremism, sid 80-84


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