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Citizenship describes the relationship that individuals have with the state. It has been described as being a member of a certain political community, and this is whereby the citizen enjoys the rights and protection of the state and also assumes the duties of membership. Citizens in this regard enjoy all the rights and privileges and also enjoy an equal and legitimate membership to a certain political community .This is unlike slaves, subjects and vassals who are dominated (Van gunstreren, 1994). This aspect by itself gives citizenship characters in that there are certain features and traits that are constituted in order to identify who is a citizen and who is not. Generally citizenship is constituted by five categories .These include; having a sense of identity, enjoying certain rights, fulfilling certain obligations, having similar interests, being involved in public affairs and accepting the values that the concerned society embraces(Heater ,1990).
Turner (Turner,1993) defines citizenship as ‘set of legal, economic, and cultural practices which define an individual as a competent member of the society’. To him these practices determine how resources are distributed. From this definition it is evident that the available opportunities in the society and how they are distributed is important in defining citizenship.
Citizenship can be viewed in two dimensions whereby in one case its considered a right .Here citizenship is defined by ones participation in a political community. The second aspect is where citizenship is considered a fulfillment of certain legalities (a legal status) or as a civic duty. Here a citizen is viewed as one who is protected by the law and has a right to claim this protection. Where citizenship is seen as a right, it emphasizes status and individual rights are safeguarded by the constitution. (Kymlicka and Norman, 1994). In civic republican traditions for example, citizenship is seen as a civic duty, whereby citizenship is viewed in terms of submission of ones interests to the common good of others. Heater identifies status, exercise and conscience as the three components of citizenship. On status he notes that the only individuals recognised by the state are those who have fulfilled all the state requirements. These individuals are connected with the state through a set of rights and regulations. As exercise, he notes that this whereby the needs of the citizens are transformed into rights and this basically broadens the former definition of citizenship. On conscience he notes that this is what convinces individuals that they are citizens of a certain state.
Citizenship has before been understood in different ways and is not widely understood (lister, 1998) .This is because it is both a complex and flexible concept. This is because of the complexity and diversity of most states which might not necessarily share the same views in defining what they deem citizenship to be. The fact that citizenship is also not tangible makes it difficult to construct in peoples minds (Parker, 2003). The concept of globalisation has also complicated the understanding of citizenship in that, it neutralises the ideal of nations and this is basically the underlying factor that defines citizenship (Smith, 1995). Although globalization has had a noticeable impact on citizenship, it is imperative to note that the former has still maintained its character in that people always identify themselves more with their countries of origin even when they are in foreign countries .It is therefore difficult to define citizenship since it may carry different meanings to different people. In other instances it is possible to even find people from the same nation interpreting citizenship differently, Kymlicka argues. In addition citizenship is a hotly contested feature in some countries. This is displayed by the lengths people are willing to go to gain citizenships of certain countries. For instance some people engage in fake marriages in order to be accorded citizenship.
Citizenship as an identity is assumed whereby it gives individuals in a certain political community a sense of belonging and therefore can identify themselves as being this and that country’s citizens. This is marked by the citizens of a particular country having a subjective sense of belonging and according lister, (lister, 1998) this is psychological in that the citizens have embraced the fact that they belong to a certain political community and are distinct by that mere fact. This kind of feeling thereby strengthens social cohesion .Whereby citizenship is defined as a civic duty; it obligates its citizens to serve the community. Here participation is a duty based on having a sense of belonging and a shared commitment and vision of a common good. Citizenship produces identity whereby it is used by individuals to define who they are in terms of their nationalities or where they come from. This identity is seen as exclusive and geographically defined. Here the nation or the state forms the basis of defining citizenship. If the nation or the state is there then citizens are there and with the states absence then there is a feeling being in a state of having no identity as in the case of slaves, aliens and asylum seekers. The nation hereby validates the citizenship and gives one the identity. Citizenship produces identity in that it is difficult to understand the individual as a citizen but as a nation (Jasmine, 2008).Citizenship is also seen as a sense of belonging that one feels towards their community through involvement. This is about the stakes and ties that are nurtured at basic level which is from the community extending to the nation. The idea of citizenship thereby helps individuals in defining their identities. According to perker (Perker, 2003) if the three aspects that define citizenship are incorporated they help in shaping its identity. This is owing to the fact that the rights that citizens enjoy determine the political activities that they participate in and this gives the citizens identity or a sense of belonging. Heater also notes that the conscience aspect of citizenship is what gives citizenship an identity. He argues that this identity if formed by ones knowledge of their basic rights and duties, identifying the sovereignty of the state in granting these rights and duties through policies and laws and also though identification of methods that are legal in demanding for these rights. The state is very key if citizenship ever gains an identity. This is because failure by the state to treat its people as citizens but as subjects implies that these individuals do not develop the citizenship conscience hence they lack the identity.
Turner (1986) argues that citizenship identity, which implies having a sense of belonging and solidarity has a very strong link in regard to the distribution of resources and especially where it’s done in an un equal way.
From a narrow understanding of citizenship, aliens have been excluded in many countries from enjoying even the most basic of amenities. An alien is a citizen of one country living in a foreign country. Most of their rights are determined by agreements and relationships that the two countries have. Policies such as the 1996 welfare reform act made citizenship a requirement for one to enjoy most of the basic public benefits in The United States. This means that anyone arriving in the country legally and even on a permanent basis but who is not a citizen cannot enjoy basic support programmes. Aliens in most countries are not allowed to vote or hold public office. In other countries and even some US states, on is not allowed to practice in certain professions especially the legal profession. They are thereby forced to go back to school in those countries in order to be allowed to practice. There are also laws that make it very easy for the government to deport aliens and this happens especially if they break laws however careful they try to be this can be viewed as harassment. This is mostly done by limiting the Aliens rights. The aliens are also denied the right to vote and even press legal charges by denying those rights to judicial review or making it difficult. There are also efforts in some countries to do away with citizenship by naturalization and even birth whereby the aliens beget children in foreign countries and this is especially when they are not documented.