Revival of the Civic Spirit: Contradictions in Somali-American Citizenship

Louise Dickson
Content Type
Journal Article
Bildhaan: An International Journal of Somali Studies
Issue Number
Publication Date
January 2011
Macalester College
Throughout history, the notion of citizenship has been full of contradictions. Both as a method of inclusion and exclusion, of privilege and second-class status, citizenship is a cornerstone of one's individual, national, and global identity. Some optimistic scholars have noted an entrance into a “post-national” phase of global citizenship; however, this vision cannot be realized while human rights are being violated. To be sure, citizenship has become a much more universal concept since its inception and has been facilitated by ideas of cosmopolitanism. Yet it has not transcended national boundaries into the global sphere. This claim can be supported by almost any national immigration case study. Whether in South Africa, Norway, or France, immigrant refugees fleeing persecution are rarely granted full human rights in terms of citizenship. The United States is in the midst of a third major wave of immigration: from 1990 to 2008 almost one million new arrivals landed here each year. Since the eruption of civil war in Somalia in 1991, many Somalis have sought refuge in the United States—a symbol of political, religious, and social freedom—and have followed chain migration patterns scattered across the country, with one of the largest populations settling in the Twin Cities area. However, the “Somali Capital of the United States” does not provide asylum or immunity from the international contradictions in citizenship and human rights, which will be an underlying theme throughout the essay.
Human Rights
Political Geography
United States, Norway, France, South Africa, Somalia