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Disenchanting Citizenship

Disenchanting Citizenship: Mexican Migrants and the Boundaries of Belonging

Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 266
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  • Book Info
    Disenchanting Citizenship
    Book Description:

    Central to contemporary debates in the United States on migration and migrant policy is the idea of citizenship, and-as apparent in the continued debate over Arizona's immigration law SB 1070-this issue remains a focal point of contention, with a key concern being whether there should be a path to citizenship for "undocumented" migrants. InDisenchanting Citizenship, Luis F. B. Plascencia examines two interrelated issues: U.S. citizenship and the Mexican migrants' position in the United States.The book explores the meaning of U.S. citizenship through the experience of a unique group of Mexican migrants who were granted Temporary Status under the "legalization" provisions of the 1986 IRCA, attained Lawful Permanent Residency, and later became U.S. citizens. Plascencia integrates an extensive and multifaceted collection of interviews, ethnographic fieldwork, ethno-historical research, and public policy analysis in examining efforts that promote the acquisition of citizenship, the teaching of citizenship classes, and naturalization ceremonies. Ultimately, he unearths citizenship's root as a Janus-faced construct that encompasses a simultaneous process of inclusion and exclusion. This notion of citizenship is mapped on to the migrant experience, arguing that the acquisition of citizenship can lead to disenchantment with the very status desired. In the end, Plascencia expands our understanding of the dynamics of U.S. citizenship as a form of membership and belonging.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-5334-4
    Subjects: Anthropology, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
    (pp. 1-20)

    I am an alien and a citizen of the United States of America. My Certificate of Naturalization locates my political presence and notes that I am “entitled to be admitted to citizenship … and … admitted as a citizen of the United States of America.” The certificate finalizes my path to citizenship—a status that I respect and feel privileged to acquire, particularly in the context of the many migrants I have known over the years who struggled to obtain the same privilege but did not succeed. Many years after being granted U.S. citizenship, I noticed something in my certificate...

  5. CHAPTER 1 Fields of Citizenship
    (pp. 21-50)

    The fundamental concept of citizenship plays a central role in shaping social and political space in the history of the United States.¹ From the colonial period to the present, it is part of a discourse that fosters the bonds and unity among those it encircles. However, the membership circle has never been universal. At different times and across different groups residing in the United States, full membership, in terms of political and social membership, is an aspiration rather than a reality. From the settlement of Jamestown, Virginia, in 1607 to the present, the notions, boundaries, and practices of citizenship have...

  6. CHAPTER 2 The Janus Face of Citizenship: THE SIDE OF INCLUSION
    (pp. 51-83)

    Citizenship is a decisive political marker in the United States. It is a highly prized distinction that demarcates the boundaries of political and social membership. Possession of U.S. citizenship reinforces the imagined circle of membership and belonging, and it fosters the ties of group membership among those who can claim it. Thus it functions as important sociopolitical glue that binds individuals to one another and to the nation-state.

    U.S. citizenship is granted through five juridical processes. The three common principles arejus soli(right of soil),jus sanguinis(right of blood), and naturalization. The first refers to the granting of...

  7. CHAPTER 3 The Janus Face of Citizenship: THE SIDE OF EXCLUSION
    (pp. 84-112)

    Discussions of juridical citizenship tend to examine inclusionary or exclusionary dimensions of citizenship without taking into account its dual nature.¹ A noteworthy exception to this is James Holston’s (2008) detailed examination of the entanglement of citizenship, inequality, and democracy in Brazil, though his focus is not on the simultaneous factors examined here.² The processes of inclusion and exclusion are central to fostering the high valuation of, and privileging associated with, U.S. citizenship. Those who can claim U.S. citizenship can assert their privileged position; those who perceive that they lack the full measures of citizenship (i.e., “second-class citizens”) can demand absent...

  8. CHAPTER 4 The Making of Citizens: PROMOTING AND SCHOOLING
    (pp. 113-142)

    The path to citizenship is diverse and reflects a combination of individual and external efforts that promote the acquisition of citizenship and assist migrants in the process, including direct local actions encouraging permanent residents to apply for citizenship and citizenship classes for those who need additional assistance. Although these components are an important bridge to citizenship, scholars have allocated scant attention to them.

    Among the participants in the citizenship classes I taught, all individuals held jobs, some more than one. Although they had family responsibilities, they attended a weekday evening or Saturday morning citizenship class and listened to cassettes or...

  9. CHAPTER 5 Bearing True Faith and Allegiance: ENTERING THE CIRCLE OF CITIZENSHIP
    (pp. 143-171)

    For the individuals interviewed in this study, the discourses of citizenship in the United States were productive in creating the subjectivity of citizen because elements in the discourse made sense to them. They recognized the value and privileges associated with citizenship, wanted to be good citizens, and wanted their children to be good citizens, too. They became involved in constructing themselves as citizens—hacerme ciudadano(make myself a citizen/become a citizen)—reflecting the role of the self in subject-making. Moreover, the productivity of the discourse was facilitated by the fact that becoming a citizen held out the promise of meeting...

  10. CHAPTER 6 Desire, Sacrifice, and Disenchantment
    (pp. 172-191)

    The immigrants I interviewed desired citizenship for many reasons, many of which are parallel to what has been reported in the naturalization literature. For example, a survey of persons in citizenship/ESL classes in Austin, El Paso, Houston, and San Antonio reported that 292 out of 526 Latino participants (of which almost 90 percent were of Mexican origin) had immediate plans to apply for citizenship. The others planned to apply once they were more proficient in English, civics, and history. Table 6.1 presents their reasons for wanting to petition for citizenship.

    The three most common responses provided by the migrants interviewed...

  11. Conclusion
    (pp. 192-198)

    As evident from the controversy surrounding the legitimacy of Barack Obama’s presidency, the debate on the meaning of the birth provision in the Fourteenth Amendment, the 2005–2011 efforts to pass a comprehensive immigration reform, and actions by state and local governments since the mid-1990s to exclude aliens from resources, citizenship is a contemporary concern. Herman van Gunsteren’s (1978, 10) astute observation over three decades ago regarding citizenship as an essentially contested concept and conflictual practice is borne out by our contemporary experience. Citizenship, as argued here, is a Janus-faced process that simultaneously includes and excludes. Thus, its many positive...

    (pp. 199-212)

    On April 27, 2011, a historically unique event took place. The White House posted the president’s long-form birth certificate on its website and President Obama held a press conference to announce the action. The event, on its surface, appears mundane: an elected government official makes his birth certificate public. As such, it is an unremarkable event. However, the context of the event indexes something significantly different. The fact that President Obama decided to release the document in his third year in the Office of the President is remarkable. Its release had the aim of not only clarifying his place of...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 213-224)
  14. Works Cited
    (pp. 225-246)
  15. Index
    (pp. 247-252)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 253-254)