Robtel Neajai Pailey interrogates how Liberian citizenship has been constructed across time and space
This presentation interrogates whether or not an ‘authentic’ Liberian citizen actually exists based on multi-sited fieldwork conducted between June 2012 and July 2013. Using actor-oriented analysis as my theoretical framework, I examine the interfaces between 202 Liberian respondents – namely, homeland Liberians in Monrovia, Liberia’s capital; Liberian diasporas in London, Washington, Freetown, and Accra; permanent and circular returnees; executive and legislative members of government, including the four sponsors of Liberia’s 2008 proposed dual citizenship bill – showing that their conceptualisations of 'Liberian citizenship' differ according to their lived experiences and social locations, and ultimately influence participation, or lack thereof, in post-war recovery. I argue that contemporary constructions of ‘Liberian citizenship’ transcend the legal definition enshrined in the country’s 1973 Aliens and Nationality Law—moving from passive, identity-based citizenship to more active, practice-based citizenship.
I use inverted commas to encase the term ‘Liberian citizenship’ throughout because it refers to the constantly shifting conceptualisations and practices of citizenship over space and time. Citizenship, in my analysis, is not only a bundle of rights and privileges embedded in constructions of legal, national and cultural identity, but it is also a set of practices and interactions embodied in the life-worlds of respondents in Liberia and across transnational spaces.