Conferences & Symposia

Unsettled Citizens

Unsettled Citizens

Populism, global crisis, and modernity have rendered citizenship an ever-more fluid and troubled concept.

Even as millions of migrants from poorer countries struggle for citizenship in places like Canada, Europe, and the United States, wealthy families and individuals often have the means to purchase legal citizenship rights in a new country. Prominent court cases have granted the legal rights of citizens to corporations, which are themselves created by the government. Meanwhile, indigenous peoples frequently find their citizenship regulated by nation-states as well as tribal governments. In country after country, ethnic majorities are seeking laws to define citizenship based on race, language, and religion. In other settings, nations seek an ideal of citizenship that potentially erases biological, racial, and religious difference.

Our conference will explore all of these themes. In the first panel, we will debate the concept of economic citizenship, asking to what extent citizenship can be bought, constituted, or even lost by means of variation in wealth. In a second panel on citizenship and its gatekeepers, our discussion will explore how states, tribes, and other communities regulate belonging. And in the third panel, we will examine how migration and cross-border identity challenge the concept of citizenship.

For the past two years, the Radcliffe Institute has been pursuing a thematic focus on citizenship in the modern world, timed to coincide with the upcoming centennial of the 19th Amendment and the 150th anniversary of the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution. This conference will be the culmination of our two-year theme.

Free and open to the public.



9 a.m.


Tomiko Brown-Nagin, dean, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study; Daniel P.S. Paul Professor of Constitutional Law, Harvard Law School; and professor of history, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Harvard University

Framing Remarks

Daniel Carpenter, faculty director of the Social Sciences Program, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, and Allie S. Freed Professor of Government, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Harvard University

9:15 a.m.

Economic Citizenship

Moderator: Kenneth W. Mack, Lawrence D. Biele Professor of Law, Harvard Law School

10:45 a.m.


11 a.m.

Citizenship and Its Gatekeepers

  • Jill Doerfler, department head and professor, Department of American Indian Studies, College of Liberal Arts, University of Minnesota Duluth

  • Pap Ndiaye, professor of history, Sciences Po (France)
  • Chia Youyee Vang, professor of history, University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee

Moderator: Philip J. Deloria, professor of history and chair of the Committee on Degrees in History and Literature, Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences

12:30 p.m.

Lunch Break

2 p.m.

Keynote Address

Carmen Yulín Cruz Soto, mayor, San Juan, Puerto Rico

Introduction: Gabriela Soto Laveaga, professor of the history of science, Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences

3:15 p.m.


3:30 p.m.

Citizenship on the Move

  • Theresa McCarthy, associate professor in the Department of Transnational Studies, University at Buffalo
  • Alexandra Minna Stern, professor and chair of the Department of American Culture and professor in history, women’s studies, and obstetrics and gynecology, University of Michigan
  • Lyndsey Stonebridge, interdisciplinary chair and professor of humanities and human rights, Department of English Literature, University of Birmingham (UK)

Moderator: Jacqueline Bhabha, professor of the practice of health and human rights, Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health; director of research, Harvard FXB Center for Health and Human Rights; Jeremiah Smith, Jr. Lecturer in Law, Harvard Law School; and adjunct lecturer in public policy, Harvard Kennedy School

5 p.m.

Closing Remarks

Daniel Carpenter