From The MIT Press Essential Knowledge series


By Dimitry Kochenov

The story of citizenship as a tale not of liberation, dignity, and nationhood but of complacency, hypocrisy, and domination.





The story of citizenship as a tale not of liberation, dignity, and nationhood but of complacency, hypocrisy, and domination.

The glorification of citizenship is a given in today's world, part of a civic narrative that invokes liberation, dignity, and nationhood. In reality, explains Dimitry Kochenov, citizenship is a story of complacency, hypocrisy, and domination, flattering to citizens and demeaning for noncitizens. In this volume in the MIT Press Essential Knowledge series, Kochenov explains the state of citizenship in the modern world.

Kochenov offers a critical introduction to a subject most often regarded uncritically, describing what citizenship is, what it entails, how it came about, and how its role in the world has been changing. He examines four key elements of the concept: status, considering how and why the status of citizenship is extended, what function it serves, and who is left behind; rights, particularly the right to live and work in a state; duties, and what it means to be a “good citizen”; and politics, as enacted in the granting and enjoyment of citizenship.

Citizenship promises to apply the attractive ideas of dignity, equality, and human worth—but to strictly separated groups of individuals. Those outside the separation aren't citizens as currently understood, and they do not belong. Citizenship, Kochenov warns, is too often a legal tool that justifies violence, humiliation, and exclusion.


$15.95 T ISBN: 9780262537797 344 pp. | 5 in x 7 in 9 figures


  • [A] spirited contribution to the MIT Press's Essential Knowledge series. Kochenov sees the institution of citizenship, not its byproduct of statelessness, as the real problem. He does not hold back his disdain, defining citizenship as 'a heritage glorifying servility, racism, sexism, and arbitrary exclusion,' a tool for 'simplifying the world' and 'rendering people governable,' a gateway to complacency, intellectual laziness, and oppressive categorizations. Statelessness is a problem only because of how unequal and arbitrary the institution of citizenship is to begin with: it is assigned at birth and seldom earned, so most people never have a say in it. Further, the 'mythology of the equality of different nationalities' only makes things worse: it leads us to believe that any citizenship should be sufficient for meeting the needs of individuals.

    The New York Review of Books

  • Kochenov's book should be a wake-up call for constitutional and international theorists and practitioners to promote an agenda for redefining citizenship as well as the structures governing it.

    International Journal of Constitutional Law


  • This searing indictment challenges everything you think you knew about citizenship, one of the fundamental ordering principles of the modern world. Drawing on vivid examples from all over the planet, Kochenov shows that behind a façade of equality, citizenship has perpetuated global inequality, racism, and repression of women. I have studied and written about citizenship extensively, but found many challenging new critiques in this fine book. Written in sharp, clear, jargon-free prose, this book will be of vital interest to any citizen of any country.

    Eric Lohr

    Chair of the History Department, American University

  • This book is absolutely atypical. Dimitry Kochenov convincingly destroys myths and stereotypes—probes the very fundamentals—doing this without a slightest tint of populism or conspiracy, drawing solely on crystal-clear logical arguments and countless fascinating facts.

    Boriss Cilevičs

    Chairperson of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe

  • In his challenging and erudite text about the problems of national citizenship, Kochenov blends real-world insights with scholarly interpretations. The result is a highly engaging book that every citizen—and alien!— should read.

    Atossa Araxia Abrahamian

    senior editor, The Nation; author of Cosmopolites

  • Citizenship is an exhilarating read. No book goes further in demolishing the myths and surrounding this status that we all have and are bound by. And no author could do so with as much panache as Kochenov.

    Kristin Surak

    London School of Economics; author of Citizenship 4 Sale: Millionaires, Microstates, and Mobility