Ethnic Identity, Transnational Belonging and Dual Citizenship – Trajectories and Strategies of Indian-American Immigrants

Daniel Naujoks

Monday, March 7th 2016
14:00-16:00 Panel 2: The Politics of Diaspora Citizenship


Scholarship on immigration, citizenship and ethnic identification has shed light on many aspects of immigrant incorporation. One of the questions remaining is in what way the extension of membership rights by the home country affects migrants’ political, social and cultural integration in the country of residence. This is directly connected to the transnational repercussions of the external citizenship regimes that have been promoted in many parts of the word.
Based on 50 interviews, this paper analyzes and theorizes how a diasporic state-membership status—namely, the Overseas Citizenship of India—affects mechanisms and strategies of belonging, national identification and commitment for persons of Indian descent in the U.S.
Drawing on the theoretical framework of ethnic identity, social identity theory, and anthropology, as well as social and ethnic psychology, the paper addresses concrete ways how dual citizenship affects ethnic self-categorization and commitment. The analysis includes the individuals’ perceived right to call themselves ‘citizens of both countries,’ as well as citizenship status as an argumentative tool and a reminder in the process of external identity negotiation. The paper shows that a dual legal status helps immigrants resist the often exclusive norms of national community, both in the U.S. and in India, and allows them to gain public recognition through officially sanctioned multiple belonging. For this reason, the paper shows the strategic use and impact of state policies at the individual level.
Although the final identification process is located at the individual level, the paper also addresses the effect on group processes, both within the ethnic Indian community in the U.S. and between this community, the U.S. mainstream and other groups. The paper offers an empirically grounded theory of identificatory processes that are associated with immigrant naturalization, multiple belonging and transnational as well as local practices. Contrary to theories claiming that dual citizenship is eroding national (U.S.) citizenship, the paper highlights how a quasi dual citizenship enhances political participation and civic activism in the U.S.

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