Territory, Rights and Mobility: Theorising the Citizenship/Migration Nexus in the Context of Europeanization

Chenchen Zhang

LUISS Open Access. Feb 2014 [Link]

Supervisors: Sebastiano Maffettone (LUISS) & Glen Newey (ULB)


The overarching objective of this dissertation is to conceptualise the spatiality of citizenship, which is approached here primarily in terms of territory and mobility, and their incorporation in the juridico-political system of distributing rights, through an exposure to its various others – especially to mobile subjectivity. In particular, it examines the changing patterns of territorialising space, distributing rights and regulating mobility in the intertwined politics of citizenship and that of migration in the EU. Building on the approach of critical citizenship studies, it assumes that the practices and discourses of othering have been constituent of the very foundation of modern citizenship, and understands citizenship at the interface between the governing structure and the acts of the governed that rupture, resist or appropriate it. In this framework, the thesis first of all looks at the spatial configurations of national citizenship by analysing the trajectories in which the interrelated concepts of territory, rights and mobility participate, and are reshaped, in the project of making the citizen and her various others.

The main part of the thesis investigates the ways in which the interrelations between these spatial dimensions of citizenship are reconfigured in a multiplied citizenship-migration nexus under the process of Europeanisation. It first looks at two different notions of territory – a statist one and a networked one – that are visible in the official discourses, yet it highlights the fact that the technologies that are supposed to produce each type of territoriality often converge. Thus I read the politics of Eurostar and the Channel Tunnel project as one that involves competing patterns of territoriality and manifests the dynamics between facilitated and obstructed mobilities at a moving border. However, the permeability of this border is partly enabled by the uneven and ambiguous configurations of Schengenland itself, and draws attention to the excessive forms of mobility that challenge and break with the official formulation of free movement rights. Thus we turn to the intricate relationship between mobility and citizenship in Europe following our dialogical approach: focusing on the ii rationalities implied in the government of free movement on one hand, and the paths through which to redefine the right to mobility on the other. In the light of Rancière’s reconceptualisation of rights and democracy, I present two examples each employing different strategies to politicise and mobilise mobility: one is through appealing to the universal, the other legitimating the particular. The politics of mobility is also seen as an endeavour of producing alternative spaces against the territorialised state-centric space to which the imagination of citizenship is usually limited. In discussing a possible global ethics, however, I argue that the dynamics between rights and citizenship are not bound to an emancipatory end. While the juridical system of differentiated rights is constantly challenged by those who claim that they have the rights they are denied to, once the ‘achievements’ of rights-claims are re-appropriated in the juridico-political form of citizenship, this form continues to reproduce boundaries and differential inclusions which shall again be contested. A selfcritical global ethics therefore should be conscious about the imperfectability of citizenship and the impossibility of community.

This project receives funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Grant Agreement No 722826.