Mabel Berezin
SubjectSociology » Government, Politics, and Law, Sociology of Development Key-Topicsimperialism DOI:10.1111/b.9781405124331.2007.x


Postnationalism as an analytic frame articulates with a hypothesized decline of the nation-state in the face of globalization and reterritorialization (Berezin 2003; Ansell 2004). The increasing presence of immigrants on the territories of established nationstates, particularly but not exclusively in Europe, has pushed the discussion of postnationalism to the forefront of social science research. Soysal (1994) describes immigrant organizations in six European nation-states. Soysal identifies four types of “incorporation regimes” and argues that a new form of postnational citizenship has emerged that decouples territory from legal membership. Trans-territorial membership is based upon human rights – the rights of persons as persons, rather than persons as citizens of nation-states. Scholars have contested the postnational argument – Soysal's variant as well as other articulations of it (e.g., Jacobson 1996; Tambini 2001). Postnationalism as theory is based on a paradox that squares poorly with political reality (Eder & Giesen 2001). Postnationalism upholds the autonomy of national cultural difference at the expense of political membership. By privileging culture and nature, nationality and humanity over territorially based institutional ties, postnationalism as concept leaves itself open to criticism that it is utopian and, that in practice, it may actually threaten the legal rights of migrants Empirical research based on Europe underscores the point that a European is only European, as defined by the European Union, if he or she is a citizen of one of the member states. Koopman and Statham (1999) tested the postnational hypothesis by examining immigrant claims in Britain and Germany. They found that minorities structure their claims in the language of citizenship and rights prevailing in the national territory in which they find themselves and not in terms of the national identities and cultural practices of their homeland. Bhabha (1999) demonstrates, using data from cases before the European Court of Justice, that residents of a territory who are not legally incorporated members of the territory (i.e., citizens) have little recourse to the full array of constitutionally protected rights. Many of her examples focus on marriage. Citizens of non-member states, even if married to naturalized citizens, face the threat of deportation. Legally, transnationality within Europe is a tightly bounded concept. Indeed, the juridical evidence makes postnationalism appear moot. The continuing hegemony of the nation-state, even in the presence of an expanding European Union, suggests why

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