Engin Isin, Professor of Politics at The Open University, is our first speaker in the Spring Citizenship in Movement Working Group Lecture Series at the New School for Social Research. His lecture is entitled, Citizenship’s Empire.
Following on Citizens Without Frontiers, where Isin explored cross-border solidarities as the foundations of an incipient international citizenship, in Citizenship’s Empire, Isin explores the transition from empire to nation roughly between the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as the emergence of modern citizenship regime.
This transition, often announced as the end of empire and the birth of the nation-state, is used to explain sovereignty, people, territory apparatus and its citizenship regime. (Arendt interpreted this transition as the conquest of the state by the nation.) A whole generation of scholars worked with this assumption: following the end of empire the era of the nation-state beckoned. Isin argues that historians have always expressed a latent skepticism toward this assumption but, more recently, it has become manifest. There is now a question about whether there was an end to empire and whether there was a transition to nation-state at all. This is not to say that nothing has changed. But that it has become possible to think about a momentous transition differently. We now think that the period witnessed not so much the end of a form but its mutation into something different yet so familiar.
What then and why now? It is now possible to consider empire and nation not as mutually exclusive and sequential forms but perhaps constituting a hybrid form, which Isin calls, perhaps teasingly, empire-state – a form that uses nations and nationalism for imperial government. Isin acknowledges that he is not a historian; he’s interested in political sociology of citizenship. The question that concerns Isin is, ‘if indeed empire-state is seen as the defining form of our era what performative force would it have on giving an account of our experience of citizenship?’ It is this question that Isin would like to articulate as a political question. He draws on extraterritoriality laws applied to Ottoman Empire (17th-19th centuries) and China (20th century) to illustrate how incipient empire-states such as the US, Britain, France, and Germany created extraterritorial citizens.
Co-Sponsored by the Sociology Department and the Zolberg Institute on Migration and Mobility.