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DOI: 10.22201/iij.24487937e.2023.17.18205









Editorial note

Bonds, Boundaries and Bundles: The Normative Role of Citizenship1

Enrique Camacho Beltrán*


Mexico City, 26 January 2023


Oppression, Ethics of Citizenship, Republicanism, Cosmopolitanism, Federalism, Confederalism, Epistemic Justice, Structural Corruption, Animal Citizenship, Refugee Ethics.

The Wichís are a 13-thousand-year-old South American indigenous people inhabiting the basins of the Bermejo river across Bolivia and Argentina. In 2006 the Argentinian state prosecuted Qa’tu, a 28-year-old Wichí man for allegedly raping the underage daughter of his concubine, who, as a result, became pregnant. The Argentinian state, on one hand, protects its citizens against what it considers a severe sexual offense. Nevertheless, many women in the Wichí community, and particularly the alleged victims, protested against the coercive action undertaken by Argentinian law. The Wichí community did not recognize the Argentinian law prohibiting this kind of sexual exchanges. The Wichí people, on the other hand, protect the interest of young females to initiate intercourse after their first menstruation in order to explore and freely exercise their sexuality. In fact, Wichí women consider themselves all sisters-in-law.2 During the judicial hearings, the alleged victim testified in favor of the alleged rapist. She said “I am a woman, Qa’tu’s wife and mother of Menajen… I was a free woman when I chose him. My mother, the women, and the community, all accepted what I wanted, but now my man is imprisoned, and I am not allowed to see him. White people’s justice has to listen to me and free Qa’tu”. White feminists strongly oppose a special-consideration prerogative suggested by a superior court in order to take into account cultural disagreements, arguing for a universal interpretation of the sexual integrity of children (Bidaseca, 2011). As Argentinian citizens, the Wichí are bound to obey the rules banning specific sexual behaviours, but as members of their political community they are equally bound to respect the interests of women who initiate intercourse even if they are too young to do so by Argentinian standards.

The issues concerning the moral judgment around conventional ages of consent across different cultural outlooks require dealing with complex disputes surrounding metaethics, epistemic justice, and hermeneutics. My intention here is not to discuss the transcultural ethics of consent. Rather, I wish only to underline the nature of this kind of conflict in terms of different notions of membership. I particularly wish to highlight how Anglo-American philosophical literature on citizenship tends to focus either on an ideal conception of citizenship or on a prospective conception of it.

Philosophers hailing from affluent countries tend to ask what concept of citizenship is more coherent with the rest of social ontology, or which concept is the most consistent with our practices (Carens, 2013; Bozniak, 2008; Miller, 2000; Walzer, 1983; Marshal, 1965). Alternatively, there are others who look to the future and ask what kind of concept of citizenship we ought to have if we want to face the challenges and new forms of freedom and mutual caring that the arising conditions are demanding. Such conditions include mass media, artificial intelligence, terrorism, mass migration, global warming, traditionally disenfranchised groups, among others. (Donaldson and Will Kymlicka, 2016). But I suspect an important bias hinders these approaches, as they tend to conceal what I believe to be the most important problem of justice surrounding citizenship: The fact that for most of the world, citizenship seldom serves the purpose to establish relationships of social freedom and equality. For many people it is quite the opposite; it may even allow forms of oppression to continue across borders, peoples, and time. In that vein, I believe one of the main challenges the Wichís face has to do with how Argentinian citizenship frames their group regarding the rights and duties it imposes upon members of Argentinian first nations.

This of course needs some unpacking, so in this introduction, I will take the chance to explain how the papers contained in this volume fit this agenda of research, and how some of the participants wish to move forward. Hopefully this will help clarify in which way they offer fresh outlooks into citizenship scholarship. But before I proceeded to the arguments, at the outset, let me point out there are at least three familiar facts often overlooked by leading literature, but which are nonetheless fairly palpable for Latin American researchers. First, Latin American states encompass a great number of ethnocultural groups and peoples. When states like the United Kingdom or Spain struggle to maintain unity between just a few peoples, states like Bolivia, Perú and México have to deal with dozens or hundreds of different peoples, ethnocultural and linguistical minorities and many other contemporary forms of identity, legal status, civic virtue, and belonging. Secondly, Latin America is heavily affected by discrimination, exclusion, and inequality. The social groups perceived as the less valuable, are systematically excluded from education, opportunities, and resources. In contrast, to be a white Catholic male of upper middle-class or high-class upbringing guarantees all the goods and rights entailed in citizenship. But for the rest of the groups, their access to goods and rights remains conditional or arbitrary. Finally, the same happens outside each country’s borders. As many have remarked, being a citizen of an affluent society resembles a form of god-given privilege just as much as being a Bora woman in Perú does not provide the same access to rights and goods as being a white male Peruvian citizen. Similarly, to be a Nicaraguan citizen outside Nicaragua does not offer the same access to international borders as being a Canadian citizen outside Canada.

I understand citizenship as a form of membership, either as a form of belonging (legal or otherwise) to a political or self-determined body, a form of reciprocal self-identification to such groups, a collective exercise of the virtues needed to actualize those forms of membership, or a combination of the above (Kymlicka & Norman, 2005: 211). Precisely because citizenship could be expressed as simultaneously encompassing legal jurisdiction, moral scope, identity, and political virtues, it is often invoked to convey the kind of inclusive bond between free and equal individuals which has, at least in theory, become so characteristic of democratic contemporary liberal states (Rawls, 2001). However, this apparently straightforward notion is easily crushed by allegiance and belonging conflicts such as the one Wichís face against Argentinian justice.

Wichí membership and Argentinian membership seem to clash with each other as forms of legal and moral allegiance to a body of rules, values, principles or accounts of what amounts to be a good Argentinian or a good Wichí. Argentinian feminists may very well have good reasons to question underage sexual intercourse as a harm to the autonomy of young women, yet the voice of Wichí women was systematically silenced during the process, also harming the very autonomy they sought to protect. Perhaps Wichí people’s devaluated social status in Argentina, as an ancient first nation, was influential to initially make the court overlook their interpretations and perceptions about the fact, until a higher court ordered the suspension of the process, awaiting an anthropological expert report to confirm the appropriate age of consent among Wichís (Bidaseca, 2011).

As I said above, it is unclear how the rights and obligations Argentinian citizenship upholds could be reconciled with Wichí membership without denying Wichís the same kind of legal, moral, and social scope Argentinian membership has, making them in fact a subordinated people without citizenship. Some may argue the cultural conundrum is beside the point because, as heated as these controversies may become within the scholarship on moral and legal relativism, it remains clear that citizenship is for citizens, so the duties of Wichís as Argentinian citizens should be straightforward at least formally even though this may raise controversies in the realm of metaethics or judicial review. Still, even in formalistic terms, citizenship remains fragmented and problematic.

In order to see this, consider the case of Friedrich Notthebohm, a German citizen by birth and soil who migrated to Guatemala, becoming a resident for most of his life. Notthebohm never applied for Guatemalan citizenship, but at some point, he decided to apply for a Liechtenstein passport as he was planning to use Lichtenstein citizenship to shield himself against sanctions enforced on German citizens during the Second World War. The Guatemalan government arrested Notthebohm, and he issued a petition for Liechtenstein to sue the Guatemalan government for unjust treatment. Even though Notthebohm had in fact been granted Liechtenstein citizenship, it is not clear that he should not be treated as a Guatemalan citizen despite the fact he never applied for it.

This could mean citizenship is anything but straightforward. Even in cases we may withdraw to the formalistic aspects of the law specifying who is a citizen and who is not. there may still be room for interpretation and dispute. In the case of Notthebohm, for example, the international court proposed the principle of real and effective citizenship in order to abandon the formalistic requirements of citizenship, looking instead for the allocation of membership according to the context which pointed to Guatemalan membership even if Notthebohm had never filled out an application.

Nevertheless, if we are forced to look into the context as in the Wichís case, very often it seems citizenship may very well present itself as a paradox. It consolidates some kind of inclusive group by means of establishing formal parameters for exclusion, but very often the parameters of inclusion tend to clash with the grounds for said inclusion (Bosniak, 2008, p. 1; Sachar, 2009, p. 30), thus making room for interpretative corrections. Crucially, it also shows internal conflicts of membership (cultural, ethnic or otherwise) are not beside the point, as citizenship seems in tension with itself: the cracks and fissures flow from within outwards.

This is one of the most problematic traits of citizenship: its normative ambivalence. Citizenship is predicated on inclusion, but at the same time and for the same reasons, inclusion is an attribute parasitic on the conception that one community has about itself, which is in itself exclusive, as it does not easily admit or welcome external criticism and contestation (Bosniak, 2008, p. 3). So, if the conception of Argentinian citizenry includes Wichís, it seems Wichís would not be entitled to negotiate their own notion of belonging against that of Argentinian membership.

On the face of it, one thing it seems sensible to do is to deal with the conceptual untidiness of citizenship. According to Linda Bosniak (2008), there are several ways to shuffle the concept of citizenship. First, we can distinguish the inward-looking conception of citizenship focused on the nature of the relations among presumed members like Argentinians being oblivious of the voices of their first nations and the boundary-conscious citizenship, focused instead on community exclusion a bit like Notthebohm seeking protection from Liechtenstein citizenship. Either version, however, seems fundamentally ill equipped to handle the demands of contemporary membership, whose social and political boundaries are subject to ongoing contestation and negotiation (Bosniak, 2008, p. 7; Sachar, 2009, p. 41). Additionally, it seems to me, both concepts collapse into an all-encompassing inward-looking view, with community closure being determined and justified by the inward-looking moral quality of group relations (Abizadeh, 2008). As Michael Walzer explained, membership is the first commodity a community distributes as in accordance with its own cultural character (Walzer, 1983).

An alternative approach is to look for a way to organize the discussion by distinguishing among different kind of questions we may ask about citizenship. According to Bosniak, we can follow several routes in the path of conceptual analysis. We may ultimately ask what citizenship is, which will tell us what makes it special among other kinds of membership. We could also ask where citizenship takes place, which may inform us on its scope and boundaries. Finally, we may ask who is a citizen, which should provide the set of principles determining exclusion. But this approach, although profound and productive, only expands the problem as it opens the floor to all kinds of discussions about economic citizenship, social citizenship, animal citizenship, human citizenship, and the list goes on. (Bosniak, 2008, p. 13).

Perhaps this kind of conceptual expansion may explain why, at some point between the second half of the 20th century and the beginning of this century, some philosophers proposed to translate each topic of the theories of distributive justice into the grammar of citizenship, but without the constraints of abstraction. In their view, this could help address concrete problems, such as structural injustice, stability and support, and the politics of identity while justice scholars continued to explore the conceptual nuances of ideal consensus and theoretical equality (Kymlicka & Norman, 2015, pp. 212 and 213).3 In contrast, to me, the current expansion regarding the nature, scope and site of citizenship requires that we instead take a step back perhaps at the same time we allow the expansion and proceed rather negatively by elimination. This means to seek first a clear sense of what citizenship should not be, to then have a better idea of what citizenship should be.4

In this vein I believe we must try to construct an oppression-oriented model that follows this path of negative elimination by mapping the landscape of the structural injustices bestowed upon us through our citizenship. We are all citizens and yet we can ask in which different ways we have been wronged, not despite our citizenship, but rather as a result of any expression of our citizenship’s nature: the identity it harvests, its status compared to other citizenships, the politics or the virtues it upholds. In order to see this, consider the following cases:

Cancún is located in the Mexican Caribbean coast, and it is a desired destination for some US white tourists. These tourists are accommodated in a contained area of the Cancún lagoon, thus enjoying exclusive and restricted access to the area’s beaches and pools. Locals live in Cancun city, which stands apart from the hotels area. Kante is a Mayan 20-year-old male studying a bachelor’s degree in hotel administration. He is not usually allowed in the hotels area unless he is working. In the hotels area, tourists are presented with a carefully manicured environment so they can feel they are in Mexico, but not in a way that could make them feel too alien. Kante and his work colleagues are trained to fit into this performance: they must approach the tourists in a certain way, smile at them and accommodate their idiosyncrasies and ethno-cultural particularities. Kante and other Mayan workers are often exoticized for the gaze of the tourists as part of the show the hotels put up for tourists’ benefit. Locals are, in effect, forbidden from being themselves around tourists.

To some extent, in this context, the relationships between tourists and local workers such as Kante are not mere economic or labour exchanges. Crucially, other asymmetries emerge from the labour exchanges, where tourists enjoy the confirmation of their privilege and superiority by the demure service of the local workforce. Citizenship cuts across the structural and institutionalized nature of many of these asymmetries in the form of concrete disadvantages, identities, subordination, exploitation, discrimination, disempowerment, and other forms of oppression. A person’s belonging in the hotels or beach areas is not contingent on who they are, but where they are from. As Young puts it, this form of self and collective identification serves as an “…acknowledgement of the power of the rules over my life because of my lineage or bureaucratic status” (Young, 2002).

Now, someone may object that holiday resorts are liminal places designed for tolerance of such differences, so these traits signing oppression entailed in forms of citizenship are obviously exacerbated by the interaction between locals and tourists. After all, perhaps such dynamics are not persistent or systematic in other more familiar social spaces, such as a country club or a university. However, I believe in places such as Latin America we tend to experience citizenship precisely in those terms: as the site where oppression happens and not always as the protection against forms of oppression.

Of course, this experience is not homogeneous. Status-privilege conditions can shield an individual from this kind of experiences. Nonetheless, as a person’s vulnerability increases by the intersectionality of different memberships to socially devaluated groups according to gender or ethnic, national, racial, and class distinctions, their experience of citizenship tends to normalize or naturalize different forms of oppression. In this sense, citizenship and its morally problematic practices may be instrumental to legitimize many of these forms of oppression. As Bosniak remarks: “to characterize practices or institutions or experiences in the language of citizenship is to afford them substantial political recognition and social value… Describing aspects of the world in the language of citizenship is a legitimizing political act…” (Bosniak, 2008, p. 12). This is obviously the case when citizenship provides access to rights, but sadly, as it becomes the site of oppression, citizenship also normalizes wrongs.

Consider now the following example. In a certain US bank, a group of financial analysts receive their annual feedback via Zoom. The senior staff is international: a Russian supervisor and a French manager. The feedback was positive for Fernando, a 30-year-old Mexican analyst who receives significant praise from his French boss, Catherine, while the Russian supervisor, Yuri, asks the rest of the team to follow Fernando’s example. Fernando is particularly praised for his excellent writing skills. Later, Tom, a white male US-native co-worker, jokingly tells Fernando how ridiculous it is for him, a native English speaker, to be expected to follow and learn from Fernando’s writing skills. Tom and Fernando have the same position, and despite Fernando earning a performance bonus, the currency exchange rate between the US and Mexico means Fernando’s salary still adds up to about a third of what get the other Mexican analysts receive.

In this case the liminal context of the holiday site and the borders themselves have been removed, as the interactions are sustained in virtual meetings; but the dynamics of discrimination, exploitation, subordination and other forms of oppression are nonetheless sustained by the difference of citizenship between Fernando and his colleagues. Perhaps it is now becoming clear that these cases have in common how they both show the conflictive nature of belonging in our current social world. In fact, one of the most pervasive particularities of our time is the fragmentation and multiplication of different ways of belonging. The ceremonial and traditional groups that used to be straightforward, decisive, and primitive in their determination of our membership and identity, appear now to clash and overlap with each other. Such groups make competing demands, produce conceptual contradictions, and challenge the coherence of our theoretical framework. Yet, the nation-state remains the core where all conceptions of citizenship still gravitate, so citizenship remains the main form of belonging and in-group configuration. But more and more, the international and intercultural interaction that our globalised world allows is providing us with opportunities to challenge legal-bureaucratic citizenship and its conceptions.

To certain extent this agenda would be also expansionist if it is not delimited by methodological constrains and normative aims. Indeed, this challenge I am highlighting entails a methodological shift to follow the unjust harm and moral wrongdoing we suffer, not despite our citizenship, but rather because of it. The idea is to employ a critical discovery approach to focus first on the structural injustice produced by different conceptions and domains of citizenship. This would help us acquire a more detailed idea of what citizenship should not be. The upshot is to establish a critical viewpoint to challenge inward-looking and border-conscious conceptions by highlighting the kind of structural injustices produced by both. However, in this case, the critical approach in itself is insufficient, as citizenship is a normative concept. It could not be enough to offer a diagnosis of the evils of being a citizen. Rather, as we go, we need to integrate the limits and boundaries we discover into the normative concept. The hope is a new model of citizenship that could live up to current challenges would emerge, or at the very least, we may construct a desiderata in order to discuss which kinds of citizenship conceptions we require to face our current situation.

POLETH (Political, Legal and Ethical Theories) is a multidisciplinary research group integrated by students and researchers that has followed an investigation agenda akin to the one I sketched above. After immersing ourselves in the concept of discrimination and the wrongs and harms that are distinctive of that kind of oppression, we decided we needed to take what we have learned about discriminatory acts and structural discrimination into the gravitational field of citizenship.5 With this move, we hope we can find out more about the true site and dimension of persistent forms of injustice.

During the last year and a half, we have read and discussed different ways to map the kinds of oppression arising as a result of the practices and normative traits of citizenship. In order to contrast our diagnosis and normative conclusions, we asked other philosophers from abroad to join into the conversation. This exchange took place in June 2022 at the Institute of Legal Research (UNAM), where our distinguished guests and POLETH members exhaustively deliberated about the normative role of citizenship in the contemporary world and the different injustices and instances of oppression that it could originate.

The two papers delivering an approach that I believe fits more closely with the one I describe above were Michael Blake’s on one side, and Luis Xavier López-Farjeat and Tatiana Lozano’s on the other. Lozano and López-Farjeat argue for a form of democratic confederalism that could establish a sort of Aristotelian golden mean between two problematic opposites: cosmopolitan citizenship and particularist or localist forms of membership. Both extremes tend to be detrimental to all who are not model-citizens or rather, those who do not fit perfectly into citizenship as an exclusionist category, such as migrants and first nations. According to López-Farjeat and Lozano in “Democratic Confederalism: An Alternative for Facing Tensions Between Global Citizenship and Localist Citizenship”, a conception of cosmopolitan citizenship fails in taking into account real-world inequalities resulting from the global dynamics of race and culture because cosmopolitanism is largely constructed around an ethnocentric (Western) and metropolitan way of life. In contrast, a localist conception of citizenship, endorsed for instance by Zapatistas, may be heavily exclusionary to all who do not belong to the community or do not conform to their ways. Democratic confederalism stands as an alternative because it may establish forms of self-rule and cooperation on the side of official government institutions. This, in turn, should help process moral and legal conflicts and confrontations such as the one between the Wichís and Argentinian government.

Similarly, Michael Blake dazzled with a paper devoted to showing how international tourism may be a site of structural, distributive, and political injustice. To show this, he focuses on two main ethical worries produced by international tourism. First, he looks into the lack of reciprocity between locals and tourists that perhaps establishes good grounds for a case of epistemic unfairness. Importantly, the tourism industry makes local workers learn how to perform their culture for tourists. The lack of reciprocity or unfairness comes from the benefits tourists gain in terms of cultural and entertainment resources, which do not entail a similar cost in terms of the epistemic labour involved in the exchange. Thus, it appears to be a one-way street. Second, this kind of asymmetry may pose a harm to the locals’ capacity for political agency and, ultimately, to fully participate as citizens in their own political community. According to Blake, this highlights a specific form of epistemic harm: these two problems may systematically diminish locals’ competence in political involvement and engagement with fellow citizens. This kind of structural injustice implies morality may require an increased willingness of the tourist to be aware of his or her responsibility for people like Kente and his fellow workers for fair epistemic labour during her or his visit.

Presumably, Lopez-Farjeat and Lozano’s democratic confederalism will require the means and technologies needed to perform a huge amount of epistemic labour of their own if it could aspire to reconcile localist and globalist expectations. However, But as I explained above, the contradictions of citizenship do not remain inside the political community. Citizenship and its tension follow people on the move. So, before working on a detailed account of the epistemic work required for institutions to be global, perhaps we need to map forms of oppression with an international scope.

Alex Sager does just that by delivering “Radical Republican Citizenship for a Mobile World”. Instead of tackling oppression as a whole, Sager focuses on the problem of domination by taking the republican approach. In this vein, he seeks a substitute for the familiar statist liberal democracy model by means of the historical examination of several alternatives. The standard employed in this historical examination is active and equal participation of people subject to power as it stands in radical republican theory that grounds non-domination. In his paper, Sager first establishes why the dominant statist model of political organization fails to address the collective dangers humanity faces, effectively preventing the overall achievement of justice. He then sketches a possible alternative from a radical republican perspective, providing some guidelines on the efforts more urgently needed to remake the world. Crucially, Sager argues for a form of transnational federalism against the vestigial forms of colonialism. In order to do so, he focuses on the conditions of migrants to claim that any set of institutions strongly guaranteeing non-domination will necessarily require mostly liberalized or open borders.

It will be most interesting to reflect upon the similarities and distinctions between López-Farjeat and Lozano’s democratic confederalism and Sager’s transnational federalism, particularly considering the challenges presented by real-world predicaments such as the refugee crisis. Indeed, international forms of oppression are particularly worrisome in the case of the most vulnerable people experiencing mobility conditions. In order to do so, we may consider “Refugeehood reconsidered: The Central American Migration Crisis”, where Stephen Macedo surveys normative debates around the general question of who should qualify for refugee status. This will allow us to assess the standard used to decide who qualifies for refugee status or rather to Temporary Protected Status (TPS). The problem is the extension of the status, as it seems that morality requires that for long-term TPS recipients, as with the long-term undocumented, there should be some path to full US citizenship. In reality, the existence of this path remains elusive or, for the more optimistic, simply unclear. But in addition to the conceptual and normative queries around the standard, Macedo stresses that in the real world the challenge is to ensure powerful countries cooperate in the solutions mainly by supporting international institutions. Macedo concludes “American migrants are held hostage to the deeply dysfunctional politics of the US, which must therefore be added to the list of things that threaten humanity”.

At least some of the essential traits of this dysfunctionality are illustrated in “Citizenship Regimes and Exclusion: Historical Analysis of Legislation on Illegalized Migration in the US”, where Rubén Chávez, Alejandro Mosqueda, and Camelia Tigau share a pessimistic view regarding citizenship due to the unequal distribution of its benefits across the globe. In this regard, citizenship is not much about inclusion but rather about the inclusion of some at the expenses of the many. This pessimistic view allows the authors to assess the fairness of the US citizenship regime by comparing different pieces of proposed legislation against unauthorized immigration. According to Chávez, Mosqueda, and Tigau, the US citizenship regime lacks fairness because the great majority of legislative proposals are motivated by electoral cycles rather than by the task of legislating on citizenship itself. Thus, politicians running for office mainly exploit anti-immigrant sentiments for political gain. At the same time, market pressures facilitate a vast incentive to prevent immigrants from gaining citizenship in order to preserve a low-cost immigrant workforce.

Both papers, the first by Macedo and the second by Chávez, Mosqueda, and Tigau, reached a similar conclusion, indicating we ought to rethink citizenship from an international, multilateral, and even cosmopolitan perspective. The reader will perhaps enjoy speculating about the ways in which either democratic confederalism (López-Farjeat & Lozano) or transnational federalism (Sager) could help in the problem and the context so brilliantly illustrated by Macedo, Chávez, Mosqueda, and Tigau. Perhaps in either case the international governance arising would need significant funding, which could be secured from migrants themselves through their societies of origin. In fact, in a fully normative approach, Doug Bamford has presented us with the claim that international migrants may retain the obligation to pay taxes to their societies of origin. In turn, receiving societies should acknowledge the duty of their international residents and ensure it is discharged to alleviate claims of justice from other relevant states. In “Duties in an International World: The Importance of Past Residence and Citizenship”, Bamford explains how such a calculation could even help determine the normative proportion of a person’s total lifetime tax obligation. Perhaps receiving societies may discharge this tax obligation on behalf of their international residents, not only as a form of compensation for states that lose out as a result of “brain drain”, but also to face the financial challenges that establish the need for global institutions.

In any case, this kind of institutions will be much more vulnerable to the familiar problems of domestic institutions. Consequently, it is worth considering what Lucero Fragoso has to say about the detrimental effect corruption has on citizens. In “Citizen responsibility for structural corruption”, Fragoso seeks to establish the kind of methodological approach appropriate to face a structural problem such as corruption in order to determine what we all ought to do against it. According to her, we do not need to directly participate in bribery or nepotism in order to be responsible in sustaining corrupt practices. Rather, corruption being a structural evil, we all share political responsibility for its existence and consequences. In this vein, an effective approach to deal with this kind of background corruption is the account of collective responsibilities. From there we see we have political responsibility as long as we implicitly accept the “schemas and ideology” sustaining and strengthening the social system of corruption. As a result, citizens not only have a duty to speak out publicly against acts of bribery or to organize themselves to pursue the transformation of institutional practices; crucially, they have a collective responsibility to take action in order to change the “schemas and ideology” that sustain the social system of corruption. Of course, political responsibility is a piecemeal conception; as much as everyone is guilty, not all can be held to the same degree of responsibility. Special responsibility needs to be distributed according to social positions. Perhaps this model of responsibility against corruption could be replicated to encompass international institutions, particularly considering the increased vulnerability these institutions show in the face of transnationals and powerful states.

Finally, a tour of the injustice entailed by the practices and institutions encompassing citizenship would not be complete without at least a view from the outside. Indeed, it is perhaps the literature on the moral stand of animals that helps the most to explore the limits of the concept of citizenship. In “The citizenship rights of Veracruz’s roosters”, Luis David Reyes aims to show that Mexico is leading the recognition of non-human animals as subjects of rights by acknowledging their citizenship rights. Although Reyes does not engage with the injustice suffered as a result of one’s citizenship, he addresses the external limits of the concept. In the paper, he argues how a recent resolution by Mexico’s Supreme Court regarding local legislation must be interpreted as conceding citizenship rights to the non-human animals living in the state where that legislation applies. The paper starts by discussing the context in which the relevant law was approved and then challenged. It also discusses the analysis and resolution carried out by the Supreme Court. The paper endorses this resolution by arguing that, at least under certain specific conditions, animal rights should be interpreted as citizenship rights.

This vast tour across different kinds of oppression and injustices has produced, for each of POLETH’s members, a variety of results. Speaking for myself, I am more convinced than ever that the core aspect of oppression is in fact discrimination. In particular, I’ve come to believe that in Latin America, most of us experience citizenship as a broken and corrupt institution that offers some protections and prerogatives, but also exposes us to other harms and wrongdoings. According to this intuition, structural discrimination incorporates most of the mechanisms and strategies society uses for social closure, that is, for keeping the access to resources and opportunities available mostly to the valued social groups. To that effect, I am currently in the process of finishing a book with Luis Muñoz Oliveira, from UNAM CIALC, were we develop a conception of structural discrimination as a form of corrupt citizenship.6

Other POLETH members have, for the most part, reached the conclusion that we need a better understanding of how different kinds of oppression are related to each other in specific social contexts. A better understanding of the workings of oppression will hopefully clarify for us the meaning of suffering harm and wrongs because of one’s citizenship and what a normative conception of citizenship requires from our current real-world memberships. In the meantime, I hope the reader may join us in this ongoing conversation as we continue to face the intricate dilemma of citizenship in the 21st century.


Bidaseca, Karina. (septiembre-diciembre de 2011). Mujeres blancas buscando salvar a mujeres color café: desigualdad, colonialismo jurídico y feminismo postcolonial. Andamios. Revista de Investigación Social, 8(17), 61-89.

Bosniak, Linda. (2008). The Citizen and the Alien. The Citizen and the Alien. Princeton University Press.

Carens, Joseph. (2013). The Ethics of Immigration. Oxford University Press.

Carens, Joseph. (2000). Culture, Citizenship, and Community: A Contextual Exploration of Justice as Evenhandedness. Oxford University Press on Demand.

Donaldson, Sue & Kymlicka, Will. (2011). Zoopolis: A Political Theory of Animal Rights. Oxford University Press.

Kymlicka, Will & Norman, Wayne. (2005). Citizenship. En R. G. Frey & C. H. Wellman (eds.). A Companion to Applied Ethics (pp. 2010-223). Blackwell.

Macedo, Stephen. (1996). Community, Diversity, and Civic Education: Toward a Liberal Political Science of Group Life. Social Philosophy and Policy, ١٣(1), 240-268.

Marshall, Thomas. (1965). Citizenship and Social Class. En Class, Citizenship and Social Development (pp. 71-134). Cambridge University Prees.

Miller, David. (2000). Citizenship and National Identity. Cambridge Polity Press.

Rawls, John. (2001). Justice as Fairness: A Restatement. Harvard University Press.

Walzer, Michael. (1983). Spheres of Justice: A defense of Pluralism and Equality. Basic Books.

Young, Iris Marion. (2002). Desigualdad de estatus y grupos sociales. en Problemas de erudición legal: los orígenes y el destino de la teoría de la antisubordinación. https://www.bepress.com/ils/iss2/art9


* Profesor de asignatura en la Facultad de Filosofía y Letras de la UNAM, enrique.camacho@comunidad.unam.mx Orcid: 0000-0001-6876-8460 (https://orcid.org/0000-0001-6876-8460)

1 Many thanks to Itzel Mayans, Juan Vega and Imer Flores for all their kind help in making this possible. I’m in debt with Sandra Gómora for her kind support in all the many different stages of this project. I am also grateful with Alejandro Nopaltitla Jiménez, Lucía Michelle Corzas Corona, and José de Jesús Mendoza Morales, for their generous assistance during the colloquium and the edition of this section. I am particularly grateful with Francisco García González for making this readable in English.

2 This example is discussed Bidaseca, Karina. (2011). Mujeres blancas buscando salvar a mujeres color café: desigualdad, colonialismo jurídico y feminismo postcolonial. Andamios. Revista de Investigación Social, 8(17), 61-89. I am grateful with Paula Eloísa Sánchez Luna for pointing me in this direction.

3 See for instance: Marshall, Thomas. (1965). Citizenship and Social Class. En Class, Citizenship and Social Development (pp. 71-134). Cambridge University Prees; Kymlicka, Will & Norman, Wayne. (2005). Citizenship. En R. G. Frey & C. H. Wellman (eds.). A Companion to Applied Ethics (pp. 2010-223). Blackwell; Macedo, Stephen. (1996). Community, Diversity, and Civic Education: Toward a Liberal Political Science of Group Life. Social Philosophy and Policy, ١٣(1), 240-268; Carens, Joseph. (2000). Culture, Citizenship, and Community: A Contextual Exploration of Justice as Evenhandedness. Oxford University Press on Demand; Miller, David. (2000). Citizenship and National Identity. Cambridge Polity Press.

4 To some extent Bosniak herself stumbles with this, when she realizes that it actually makes sense to talk about the citizenship of aliens, particularly when we notice how citizenship as a status clashes with political and legal citizenship. This is the case highlighted by the talk of second-class citizenship “…which are people who enjoy status citizenship but who nevertheless are denied the enjoyment of citizenship rights, or “equal citizenship”. Conversely, aliens could be said to enjoy certain incidents of “equal citizenship” in our society today by virtue of possessing an important range of fundamental rights despite their lack of status citizenship” (Bozniak, 2008, p. 15). This shows how status citizenship, legal citizenship, and normative citizenship are analytically distinct in a way that requires a negative approach in order to draw their boundaries.

5 The result of that research project can be found in Spanish in Muñoz and Camacho (2022). http://www.librosoa.unam.mx/bitstream/handle/123456789/3575/Trato%20de%20sombras.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y

6 Hopefully, this book will be available at the end of 2023.