12 December 2012



This paper aims to explore a new practice of citizenship that has been diffusing among privileged minorities in the Third World: the emerging international practice of acquiring US citizenship. Making use of the tradition of birthright citizenship, increasing numbers of couples choose to give birth to their children in the United States despite the fact that they do not have overt physical connections (such as family ties, residency or work related) to the country. Turkey stands out in this list. Based on in-depth interviews with forty Turkish families who have given birth to their children in the United States for the purpose of acquiring US citizenship for them, we explore the following questions: What do the case of privileged minorities, who verify their globally distinct cultural identities by official means, tell us about the shifts that citizenship has gone through in the recent decades? How does this practice complicate our understanding of changing meanings of citizenship?



We argue that this process is unique because this citizenship emerges as a result of calculative decisions based on future expectations of benefits and becomes an object obtained as a result of market mechanisms. These cost-benefit calculations stem from experiences and apprehension of political instabilities, economic downturns and cultural insecurities. On the one hand, the increasing numbers of people, in general, who hold multiple passports, attest to their creativity to move beyond the confines of a single nation-state. This can be seen as cosmopolitanism in practice, something that individual nation-states may have to find ways of responding to, in order to ensure that those with the most capital do not move away. These responses can diffuse “best-practice” citizenships across the world. On the other hand, there has been much written about how citizenship produces, just like inherited property, a distributional effect that produces inequalities among different populations in the world, given that not all citizenships create similar opportunities for human beings. Along these lines, this case shows how citizenship has become a luxury property sold and bought in the global market. Not everyone has the necessary capital and connections to make use of this new kind of tourism. Thus in addition to solidifying inequalities among different populations, the institution of citizenship, in this case, also exacerbates local inequalities within Third World countries, between those who have the means to acquire a second citizenship through market mechanisms and those who do not.

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