Citizenship Denied, Deferred and Assumed: A Legal History of Racialized Citizenship in Myanmar

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Abstract

Since the late colonial period, Myanmar has experienced heated debates over notions of belonging, including belonging as inscribed through citizenship status. At independence, Myanmar opted for a hybrid citizenship regime that allowed for paths to citizenship based on both jus sanguinis and jus soli principles, as well as a liberal naturalization policy. However, a new citizenship law passed in 1982 created a tiered system with differential eligibility, rights, and application procedures for jus sanguinis and jus soli pathways, highly restricting the jus soli path to citizenship while privileging state-recognized ethnic groups by strengthening jus sanguinis pathways. The article traces the historical evolution of Myanmar’s postcolonial citizenship regime and how notions of belonging, foreignness, and nativity engendered one of the world’s most racialized citizenship regimes. A close examination of the citizenship regime highlights how citizenship and belonging for Myanmar’s ‘unofficial minorities’ are both contingent and ‘in process’, often a status left pending rather than denied or secured. This creates a ‘deferred citizenship’ which impacts not only individual applicants and their descendants but perpetuates Myanmar’s exclusionary and tiered citizenship system, ensuring that the ‘citizenship question’ is passed to the next generation.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages21
JournalCitizenship Studies
Volume27
Issue number1
Early online date2022 Dec 14
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • International Migration and Ethnic Relations
  • Law and Society

Free keywords

  • Muslims
  • minority rights
  • discrimination
  • nativity
  • naturalization
  • denationalization

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