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The Predicament of Community and Unequal Citizenship

The Predicament of Community and Unequal Citizenship
— Joyce C.H. Liu, Institute of Social Research and Cultural Studies, National Chiao Tung University


This research explores the phenomenon of the “unequal citizens” that arises in Northeast Asian, Southeast Asian and South Asian societies, and analyzes the conspicuous paradox between citizenship and the idea of universal human rights on which modern nation-states are based. It also examines the predicament of community reflected by the revival of religions, xenophobia, racism, problems of migrant workers, and unequal citizenship. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights emphasizes that sovereignty belongs to the state, law is the expression of public will, and all human beings are born free and equal. However, according to most nationality acts, only citizens enjoy the rights guaranteed by the Declaration. In this case, the non-citizens or stateless people are excluded from basic human rights, let alone the fourth- or fifth-generation residents in India, Malaysia, Myanmar and Thailand who still have not acquired citizenship, or who have acquired citizenship from governments that granted it in exchange for votes without endowment of equal rights. Besides, religious and racial discourses further become the criteria that divide citizens. Drawing on the inter-Asian context, the research examines the phenomena of unequal citizenship in Northeast Asia, Southeast Asia and South Asia.