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Back to Paper Details
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Spoiled for choice – The identity (trans)formation of non-territorial citizenship

Europe (Central and Eastern)
Citizenship
National Identity
Nationalism
Qualitative
Robert Sata
Central European University
Robert Sata
Central European University
Ágnes Vass
Centre for Social Sciences

Abstract

Citizenship is not only a marker of the modern nation-state and its political culture but an object of social closure, drawing the boundaries of and constructing identities that are strongly connected to nationhood. States in Central and Eastern Europe often offer non-territorial citizenship –ethnizenship – for their ethnic kin living in neighboring countries. This ethnizenship can create tension not only among the different states but will also be a source of conflict at the level of the individual, who has to choose between the often ‘empty’ citizenship of his/her state of residence and the citizenship offered by his/her kin-state. This exploratory paper proposes to analyze on the individual level the processes of identity (trans)formation that are caused by this duality in citizenship. We examine how members of ethnic Hungarian communities living in Slovakia and Romania (re)construct their identities through their citizenship(s) and how does this affect relations to their host state and the kin-state, as well as their minority community. We have organized focus group discussions as these are particularly well suited to study in-group interactions, and we adopt a comparative perspective to see whether there are common patterns in identity-change among different communities. We look at how interpretations of citizenship relate to other community ties, how these are used to define the differences between ‘us’ and ‘them’, and whether and how these meanings of citizenship build into the self-identification of minority members. We examine how identities are articulated since we assume each individual has a multi-layered identity, where different identifications compete with each-other based on the context that identity is called upon. We can trace this way the multi-layered identity construction that double citizenship assumes, more specifically, how personal hierarchies of the different identity layers are constructed and whether citizenship – a formal channel of identification translates into a new sense of belonging or remains a flexible and instrumental bond between the state and the individual.