Citizenship as absolute space, citizenship as contingent trace

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Using the distinction that Richard Ashley and Rob Walker drew in 1990 between two possible critical responses to crisis and the question of sovereignty, this article argues that two strands of thought can be identified, each producing a different understanding of what it means to become a citizen in Ireland. One strand articulates citizenship in terms of sovereign autonomous subjectivity, and thus in terms of horizontal or territorial relations between here and there, us and them, inside and outside. The other strand (re)articulates citizenship in terms of ambiguous paradoxical subjectivity that challenges the modern framing of the politics of citizenship as necessarily needing to be conceptualized in terms of absolute space. This divergence is explored through the 2004 Irish Citizenship Referendum. The concept of citizenship as "trace" is introduced in an attempt to capture how citizenship is reconceptualized differently in the second strand. It is argued that understanding this divergence is necessary in order to consider how classical conceptions of time and space are specifically integral to structures of sovereign power and how perspectives that take these as their starting point fail to account for the increasing emphasis on the nonsovereign manner in which citizenship is being experienced vis-à-vis migration.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)373-400
Number of pages27
JournalAlternatives: Local, Global, Political
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2010


  • 2004 Irish Citizenship Referendum
  • Citizenship
  • Sovereignty
  • Space
  • Subjectivity
  • Time


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