Citizenship as an Egg?

In: Citizenship as a Challenge
Y.Y. Brandon Chen
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Pursuant to the ‘liberal nationalist’ account, citizenship is simultaneously exclusive and inclusive. Its particularistic aspect functions as a fence that keeps non-members out while its universalistic element acts as the glue that binds all members. In theory, any tension between these seemingly competing attributes is reconcilable as they are assigned to distinct spatial domains, the former to citizenship’s exterior and the latter interior. Thus, often drawing comparison to an egg, citizenship is said to consist of a hard shell and a soft centre. In this chapter, I rely on a historical review of international migrants’ shifting healthcare entitlement in Canada as a lens for contesting this liberal nationalist portrayal of citizenship. I observe that, on its edges, the exclusionary propensity of Canadian citizenship is sometimes reined in by inclusionary norms to enable the entry of even migrants commonly characterised as undesirable because of their suspected dependence on public healthcare. Conversely, in Canadian citizenship’s interior, complete realisation of universal healthcare has been thwarted by particularistic welfare controls that query foreign residents’ labour market contributions and the genuineness of their humanitarian needs. As such, contrary to the proverbial egg, citizenship is actually not as hard on the outside or as soft on the inside.

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