Citizenship and Nationhood in France and Germany

Harvard University Press
Free sample

The difference between French and German definitions of citizenship is instructive - and, for millions of immigrants from North Africa, Turkey, and Eastern Europe, decisive. Brubaker explores this difference - between the territorial basis of the French citizenry and the German emphasis on blood descent - and shows how it translates into rights and restrictions for millions of would-be French and German citizens. Why French citizenship is territorially inclusive, and German citizenship ethnically exclusive, becomes clear in Brubaker's historical account of distinctive French and German paths to nation-statehood. Two fundamental legal principles of national citizenship emerge from this analysis, leading Brubaker to broad and original observations on the constitution of the modern state.
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About the author

Rogers Brubaker is Professor of Sociology and UCLA Foundation Chair at the University of California, Los Angeles.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Harvard University Press
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Published on
Jun 30, 2009
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Pages
284
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ISBN
9780674028944
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Europe / France
History / Europe / Germany
History / General
Social Science / Sociology / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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How to Be French is a magisterial history of French nationality law from 1789 to the present, written by Patrick Weil, one of France’s foremost historians. First published in France in 2002, it is filled with captivating human dramas, with legal professionals, and with statesmen including La Fayette, Napoleon, Clemenceau, de Gaulle, and Chirac. France has long pioneered nationality policies. It was France that first made the parent’s nationality the child’s birthright, regardless of whether the child is born on national soil, and France has changed its nationality laws more often and more significantly than any other modern democratic nation. Focusing on the political and legal confrontations that policies governing French nationality have continually evoked and the laws that have resulted, Weil teases out the rationales of lawmakers and jurists. In so doing, he definitively separates nationality from national identity. He demonstrates that nationality laws are written not to realize lofty conceptions of the nation but to address specific issues such as the autonomy of the individual in relation to the state or a sudden decline in population.

Throughout How to Be French, Weil compares French laws to those of other countries, including the United States, Great Britain, and Germany, showing how France both borrowed from and influenced other nations’ legislation. Examining moments when a racist approach to nationality policy held sway, Weil brings to light the Vichy regime’s denaturalization of thousands of citizens, primarily Jews and anti-fascist exiles, and late-twentieth-century efforts to deny North African immigrants and their children access to French nationality. He also reveals stark gender inequities in nationality policy, including the fact that until 1927 French women lost their citizenship by marrying foreign men. More than the first complete, systematic study of the evolution of French nationality policy, How to be French is a major contribution to the broader study of nationality.

In Native to the Republic, Minayo Nasiali traces the process through which expectations about living standards and decent housing came to be understood as social rights in late twentieth-century France. These ideas evolved through everyday negotiations between ordinary people, municipal authorities, central state bureaucrats, elected officials, and social scientists in postwar Marseille. Nasiali shows how these local-level interactions fundamentally informed evolving ideas about French citizenship and the built environment, namely that the institutionalization of social citizenship also created new spaces for exclusion. Although everyone deserved social rights, some were supposedly more deserving than others.From the 1940s through the early 1990s, metropolitan discussions about the potential for town planning to transform everyday life were shaped by colonial and, later, postcolonial migration within the changing empire. As a port and the historical gateway to and from the colonies, Marseille's interrelated projects to develop welfare institutions and manage urban space make it a particularly significant site for exploring this uneven process. Neighborhood debates about the meaning and goals of modernization contributed to normative understandings about which residents deserved access to expanding social rights. Nasiali argues that assumptions about racial, social, and spatial differences profoundly structured a differential system of housing in postwar France. Native to the Republic highlights the value of new approaches to studying empire, membership in the nation, and the welfare state by showing how social citizenship was not simply constituted within "imagined communities" but also through practices involving the contestation of spaces and the enjoyment of rights.
Between 1914 and 1922, millions of Europeans left their homes as a result of war, postwar settlements, and revolution. After 1918, the immense movement of people across Germany's eastern border posed a sharp challenge to the new Weimar Republic. Ethnic Germans flooded over the border from the new Polish state, Russian émigrés poured into the German capital, and East European Jews sought protection in Germany from the upheaval in their homelands. Nor was the movement in one direction only: German Freikorps sought to found a soldiers' colony in Latvia, and a group of German socialists planned to settle in a Soviet factory town.

In The Impossible Border, Annemarie H. Sammartino explores these waves of migration and their consequences for Germany. Migration became a flashpoint for such controversies as the relative importance of ethnic and cultural belonging, the interaction of nationalism and political ideologies, and whether or not Germany could serve as a place of refuge for those seeking asylum. Sammartino shows the significance of migration for understanding the difficulties confronting the Weimar Republic and the growing appeal of political extremism.

Sammartino demonstrates that the moderation of the state in confronting migration was not merely by default, but also by design. However, the ability of a republican nation-state to control its borders became a barometer for its overall success or failure. Meanwhile, debates about migration were a forum for political extremists to develop increasingly radical understandings of the relationship between the state, its citizens, and its frontiers. The widespread conviction that the democratic republic could not control its "impossible" Eastern borders fostered the ideologies of those on the radical right who sought to resolve the issue by force and for all time.

In the summer of 2015, shortly after Caitlyn Jenner came out as transgender, the NAACP official and political activist Rachel Dolezal was "outed" by her parents as white, touching off a heated debate in the media about the fluidity of gender and race. If Jenner could legitimately identify as a woman, could Dolezal legitimately identify as black?

Taking the controversial pairing of “transgender” and “transracial” as his starting point, Rogers Brubaker shows how gender and race, long understood as stable, inborn, and unambiguous, have in the past few decades opened up—in different ways and to different degrees—to the forces of change and choice. Transgender identities have moved from the margins to the mainstream with dizzying speed, and ethnoracial boundaries have blurred. Paradoxically, while sex has a much deeper biological basis than race, choosing or changing one's sex or gender is more widely accepted than choosing or changing one’s race. Yet while few accepted Dolezal’s claim to be black, racial identities are becoming more fluid as ancestry—increasingly understood as mixed—loses its authority over identity, and as race and ethnicity, like gender, come to be understood as something we do, not just something we have. By rethinking race and ethnicity through the multifaceted lens of the transgender experience—encompassing not just a movement from one category to another but positions between and beyond existing categories—Brubaker underscores the malleability, contingency, and arbitrariness of racial categories.

At a critical time when gender and race are being reimagined and reconstructed, Trans explores fruitful new paths for thinking about identity.

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