4825 - A technique of modern biopolitics: Defining the acquisition of nationality

The modern nation-state both controls the access of non-nationals to its territory (control of individuals, or the anatomo-political) and the acquisition of its nationality (population policy, or the bio-political).

In the Americas, nation-states almost exclusively follow the principle of ius soli, i.e., descendants of immigrants are ‘automatically’ considered members. Today, the principle of ius soli globally is under pressure. For instance in the U.S., demands are made since the 1990s to replace it with a more restrictive rationale for the acquisition of nationality. There, the undocumented Latin American female migrant is perceived as a threat above all, whose children should be, as some arguments go, excluded from U.S. nationality.

The interweaving of anatomo- and bio-politics can be illustrated particularly well by studying the Dominican Republic, where the ius soli was recently abolished.

The Dominican immigration regime against the Haitian migrant labor force is ‘traditionally’ restrictive. Their entry and their repatriation after the harvest are controlled by police and military. This state-run exclusion has been exacerbated in recent years by the implicit denaturalization of Dominicans of Haitian origin. This highly controversial practice was legalized in 2010 by a constitutional adjustment. Since then, children born inside the country are considered nationals only if their parents are lawful residents in the Dominican Republic. The hitherto existing principle of the acquisition of nationality by birth on the soil was de facto abolished. The descendants of 'temporary workers', i.e., the vast majority of immigrants, are now officially no longer considered 'Dominicans'.

Building on this case study, I will discuss whether a trend towards a bio-politicization of migration policy is a theoretically viable hypothesis.

Keywords: citizenship, ethnicity, migration, nationality, nation state

Author: Schwarz, Tobias (Research Network for Latin America, Germany / Deutschland)


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