Birthplace, bloodline and beyond: How ‘Liberian citizenship’ is currently constructed in Liberia and abroad
Robtel Neajai Pailey
As a twenty-first century post-war, emigrant-sending country, Liberia reflects global citizenship norms while simultaneously departing from them, and this unique positioning offers new opportunities to theorise citizenship across spatial and temporal landscapes. In this article, I examine ‘Liberian citizenship’ construction through a historical prism, arguing that as Liberia transformed from a country of immigration to one of emigration, so too did conceptualisations of citizenship – moving from passive, identity-based citizenship emphasising rights and entitlements to more active, practice-based citizenship privileging duties and responsibilities. Given the dynamic trends in citizenship configuration across the globe and particularly in Africa, this article fills gaps in the growing body of literature on citizenship and participation in emigrant-sending countries by contributing to wider debates about how identities, practices and relations between people transform in the aftermath of violent conflict. Empirical evidence presented is based on multi-sited fieldwork conducted in 2012 and 2013 with 202 Liberians in urban centres in West Africa, North America and Europe.