GTD Colloquium: ‘Between Rootedness and Rootlessness: Liberia, Migration and Dual Citizenship’

Topic: ‘Between Rootedness and Rootlessness: Liberia, Migration and Dual Citizenship’

Participant: Robtel Pailey (University of Oxford)

When: Wednesday February 6, 2019, from 15:30-17:00

Where: Spiegelzaal, GG 80-82 (Soiron building)

Abstract:Within the last decade alone, large-scale emigration has emboldened approximately half of all African states to adopt constitutional reforms granting dual citizenship, with some provisions more limited than others. Given Liberia’s post-war prominence in the African Union (AU), Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and Mano River Union (MRU), it remains an important case study on the challenges of consolidating extraterritorial citizenship because of mounting pressure to harmonize its citizenship laws with regional institutions. In this article, I argue that historical and contemporary migration to/from Liberia configured and reconfigured the country’s citizenship norms, thereby generating roots for some, routes for others, and a transnational impasse on dual citizenship. Further, I demonstrate that ordinary Liberians’ notions of rootedness and rootlessness have simultaneously facilitated the introduction and postponement in the passage of a contested dual citizenship bill. While the proposed bill is an attempt to reconcile the (forced) migration of hundreds of thousands before, during, and after intermittent armed conflict in Liberia, it has been postponed because, for some, naturalization abroad signifies a rejection of the fundamental tenets of ‘Liberian citizenship’ as being rooted in a singular national identity. Using empirical evidence based on interviews with over 200 Liberians in urban centres in West Africa, North America and Europe, I discuss how the divergent citizenship status choices of respondents represent a continuum of nomadic and sedentarist metaphysical thinking thereby simultaneously strengthening and challenging claims for dual citizenship.:

Robtel Pailey is an academic, activist and author with more than 15 years of combined professional experiences in Africa, Europe and North America. Pailey has been recognised as a 2016 Women4Africa International African Woman of the Year Finalist; as one of ‘25 Africans to Watch’ by the Financial Times in 2015. Having worked across a broad range of fields supporting universities, governments, NGOs, media institutions, regional and multilateral organisations, she has practitioner-based proficiencies in qualitative research, capacity development, policy design and analysis, programme management, report and grant writing, journalism and strategic communications. Pailey has held positions in a number of different capacities, which include: speechwriting for the president of Liberia, as well as diaspora policy formulation and bilateral scholarships streamlining at the Liberian Ministry of State for Presidential Affairs in Monrovia, Liberia; podcast interviewing and has consulted for ActionAid; the African Development Bank Group (AfDB); the Social Science Research Council (SSRC); the Sustainable Development Institute (SDI); and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), amongst others. She completed BA degrees in African Studies and English Literature at Howard University, an MSc in African Studies at the University of Oxford, and a doctorate in Development Studies at SOAS, University of London, as a Mo Ibrahim Foundation PhD Scholar. Previously an Ibrahim Leadership Fellow at the African Development Bank Group (AfDB) in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, Robtel currently serves as a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at the University of Oxford’s Department of International Development (ODID) in Oxford, UK, where she conducts research on citizenship, race, migration, South-South cooperation and socio-economic development in Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Upcoming GTD colloquia:

·       Wednesday 13, March 2019: Lovise Aalen, CMI (Christian Michelsen Institute)

·       Wednesday 10, April 2019: Isabella Geuskens (Women Peacemake Program)