2015 Book Award in Citizenship Studies

The 2015 Book Prize is shared by Joseph Carens, The Ethics of Immigration, and Jason McGraw, The Work of Recognition

Ethics of ImmigrationCarens provides in our view a systematic account of forms of membership and their ambiguities – legal, political, moral. The book takes the reader through the complex world of birthright citizenship, naturalization, permanent residence, temporary workers, refugees and so forth, asking uncomfortable questions about inclusion and exclusion. Indeed, he robes questions we don’t like to contemplate too easily – is there ultimately a moral justification for borders? What is it? It is of course often too easy for moral philosophers to argue for open borders in a context where they have no political power or responsibility. Carens carefully juxtaposes and contrasts such real world and justice presuppositions. He offers realistic hope that just solutions ‘articulate the moral logic underlying the general trends of the last several decades towards more inclusive rules for the acquisition of citizenship….’ (p.295)

Perhaps my personal criterion with respect to all of these volumes is – would I want this book on my reading list? I know Carens will be essential reading for my students.

Work of Recognition

The case for McGraw was somewhat different. Wanting in general to promote comparative and historical sociology, McGraw is a superb illustration of a dense and detailed scholarly historical study of slavery, the struggle for emancipation and the growth of citizenship rights in Caribbean Colombia. He was also able through the poetry and literature of the dispossessed to offer an intimate insight into their collective struggles and individual suffering.

Summarizing the book in two sentences ‘The power of emancipation in Colombia’s society-with-slaves resides the idea of freedom as the foundation of a new compact of citizenship. The destruction of slavery made possible new modes of belonging for citizens who in turn fashioned practices and meanings for democratic life out of the belonging opened up by emancipation’ (p.4). The rest of the book is a long and complex social history of that struggle.

McGraw employs citizenship as a category of historical analysis and continues the tradition of T.H. Marshall in exploring the tensions between the egalitarian thrust of citizenship and the class inequalities that are an inevitable aspect of the capitalist market system. In that respect, the book is not just about the past. The conclusion is somewhat bleak – ‘The transition from a national identity based on racial mixture to one grounded in pluralism and multiculturalism has not come close to settling the issue of Afro-Colombian visibility’ (p.229). In short defining the conditions of black representation (as illustrated by the census of 2005) remains a challenge because pluralism has not replaced the ‘older notions of color blindness, mestizaje and denial’ (p.230). This volume is for the committee social history at its best, but McGraw in the process of this historical narrative explores complex issues of national identity, citizenship, legal status, civil society and the struggle for social rights.

Carens and McGraw represent very different types of scholarship, but they are both clearly and emphatically worthy of the Wayne State University prize for works on citizenship.

About the Book Award in the Study of Citizenship


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