The research project will achieve its aim of investigating the reimagination of citizenship by ethnographically analysing the contest between official narratives of and popular feelings against the amended citizenship laws.

A human rights and humanitarian crisis.

The amended citizenship laws threaten to spark the largest crisis of citizenship and statelessness ever witnessed in the world. The everyday experience of this crisis needs to be documented systematically. The humanitarian crisis could trigger wider intercommunal violence and a state of emergency. The links between the protests, wider conflagrations of violence, and the new laws need to be urgently researched and understood. Women are more likely to be stripped of their citizenship because they lack any documentation of their existence as individuals, adding a gendered dimension to the humanitarian crisis.

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Our Reasearch

The crisis brewing in India illustrates the “biggest and most frightening setback” (Soros, 2020) to open societies today. The amended citizenship laws have intensified the worries among India’s Muslims that they are being reduced to second-class citizens. In August 2019, the government stripped the Muslim-majority State of Jammu and Kashmir of its ‘autonomous’ status which had been the basis of that State’s accession to the Indian Union in 1947. In November, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of the Hindus against the Muslims to “settle” a 150-year old dispute over a tract of land both claimed sacred. The latest laws put the onus on proving citizenship on India’s people, and Muslims fear they will be systematically excluded from being enumerated as citizens (The Economist, 2020).

The proposed research project builds on, but also departs from, these observations through a critical engagement with formulations that explore citizenship as an ensemble of insurgent (Holston, 2008) practices (Gordon and Stack, 2017) that deepen people’s relationship with the state (Somers, 2008; Jayal, 2013) as well as with one another (Nair, 2012; Wilmer, 2012). In doing so, the project draws on two conceptions of citizenship: citizenship as the ‘right to have rights’ or the foundational rights that enable people to hold other rights(Arendt, 1979) and citizenship as political subjectivity, where subjectivity refers to the ensemble of thoughts, feelings and understandings of politics (Isin, 2012).

Our approach brings into dialogue Raymond Williams’ (1978) “structures of feeling”- which refer to the different experiences that emerge from the tension between official narratives, popular responses and their appropriation in cultural texts- with these twin conceptions of citizenship. By foregrounding the affective and emotional dimension of citizenship, our research takes into account the gendered dimension of citizenship (Fraser, 1989).

The proposed research project builds on, but also departs from, these observations through a critical engagement with formulations that explore citizenship as an ensemble of insurgent (Holston, 2008) practices (Gordon and Stack, 2017) that deepen people’s relationship with the state (Somers, 2008; Jayal, 2013) as well as with one another (Nair, 2012; Wilmer, 2012). In doing so, the project draws on two conceptions of citizenship: citizenship as the ‘right to have rights’ or the foundational rights that enable people to hold other rights(Arendt, 1979) and citizenship as political subjectivity, where subjectivity refers to the ensemble of thoughts, feelings and understandings of politics (Isin, 2012).

NRC, NPR and CAA Debate

Our  research focuses on the official imaginations of citizenship and their direct impacts among those excluded, and on the oppositional imaginations of citizenships. We are gathering newspaper articles, OP-EDs, and other literary works supportive and also, opposed to the NRC, NPR, CAA.

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The research project is supported by