The American Passport in Turkey demonstrates how U.S. global power manifests in the desires people have for U.S. citizenship, even when they do not live in the States. Based on interviews with more than one hundred individuals, it captures the transnationalized relationship between inequality and citizenship regimes.
2020 | 240 pages | Cloth $59.95
Political Science / Law
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Table of Contents
List of Abbreviations
Introduction. Meanings and Values of American Citizenship in a Transnational World
Chapter 1. Imagining America in Turkey: A Historical Overview
Chapter 2. Imagining U.S. Citizenship: Risk Societies and Calculating Mothers
Chapter 3. Transnationalized Americans: Stories of Moving Up in the World
Chapter 4. Coming Back from an American Dream: Turkish Americans in Turkey
Conclusion. A Nation of Transnational Citizens
Meanings and Values of American Citizenship in a Transnational World
On 24 August 2013, Turkish Bloomberg published a story online about the trend among Turkish women of giving birth in the United States. The manager of a health tourism and international education company, part of whose business catered to this group, estimated that around 450 women went to the United States for this purpose every year, spending around $13 million. He also added that this trend was growing as much in China, Russia, and several Middle Eastern countries. When probed about the motivation, before giving a variety of misconstrued expectations, he said: "[In this way] the child will become a U.S. citizen upon birth and will have the right to remain a U.S. citizen their entire life" (Bloomberg HT 24 August 2013). Apparently, these mothers-to-be, who are permanently settled in Turkey, imagine U.S. citizenship as offering their children something beyond their own citizenship status, regardless of whether the children end up living in the United States in the future. What does this story tell us? What does it mean to be a U.S. citizen in Turkey? What does it signify to be a U.S. citizen outside of the United States? What do the allure and privileges of U.S. citizenship in Turkey tell us about American power in the region and its connections with local politics? What do the transnational meanings and values attached to U.S. citizenship signal about the transformation of the institution of citizenship?
People can give diverse answers to these questions. When a mother tells us that she wants to protect her daughter's modern, secular upbringing through U.S. citizenship, this aspiration lies atop an iceberg of Turkish national history, whose early republican legacy half of the country's population considers to be under threat. For her, U.S. citizenship is a form of insurance for her daughter given Turkey's unknown future. When a Turkish American citizen describes how he can make more credible claims of national belonging (because he returned to Turkey) and a cosmopolitan Western identity (because he lived in the United States and can always go back because he has U.S. citizenship), this says something about the popular identification of the West with the United States, a remnant of the political and cultural history between the two countries. When a natural-born U.S. citizen describes with enthusiasm the upward mobility that he has experienced since moving to Turkey, it signals a need to investigate what it is about the status of U.S. citizenship and "Americanness" that makes it a valuable asset outside of the United States. These stories and others show the many ways in which imaginaries about and the practices and experiences of U.S. citizenship outside of the United States are inherently connected to everyday experiences of economic opportunity and political unpredictability in Turkey and beyond. They reflect a history of conflicted relations between the non-West and the West, its echoes in cultural battles around questions of identity, and life in transnational spaces. More important, they elicit questions about the unequal meanings, practices, and values attached to national citizenship in transnational spaces.
This book explores the diverse meanings and values that various actors attribute to U.S. citizenship, actors who possess or seek to obtain U.S. citizenship while residing in Turkey. It is based on interviews with families who obtain U.S. citizenship for their children by giving birth in the United States, Turkish citizens who receive green cards and U.S. citizenship for themselves through naturalization but choose to return to and reside in Turkey, and natural-born U.S. citizens who have settled in Turkey during their adulthood. We propose that these meanings provide a unique vantage point to study locally situated political and economic tensions, inequalities, and struggles as well as the everyday workings of U.S. hegemony in the world. Through their narratives, we shed light on how U.S. citizenship is imagined, experienced, and practiced in a setting where everyday life is marked by unequal opportunities, brought about by the consolidation of economic liberalism on the one hand and more recently impacted by the convergence of national, regional, and transnational political unpredictability on the other. We argue that there are highly relevant questions to be explored in these diverse accounts of living in Turkey and the United States, experiences of U.S. and Turkish citizenship, in connection with individual subjectivities.
These people's stories are suggestive of the transnational meanings and values of U.S. citizenship that are ultimately connected to U.S. global power. Having U.S. citizenship outside the United States brings with it a set of symbolic meanings that are articulated in negotiations of identity. U.S. citizenship is also recognized outside the United States because of its strategic advantages compared to most citizenships. People who live in a region where most inhabitants have only limited options to escape political crisis and life-threatening situations may see their U.S. citizenship as insurance, a guarantee for safe passage to what they perceive to be a stable, liberal democracy. This is a transnational value that needs to be recognized. Or, in times of economic downturn and crisis in the United States, U.S. citizens can seamlessly pass across national borders, looking for work elsewhere while being able to reasonably expect that they will not experience much downward mobility. These diverse meanings and values of U.S. citizenship, which signify unequal transnational opportunities and symbolic recognition, give clues about the everyday workings of U.S. global power.
We also believe that the hierarchical meanings and values emerging from diverse experiences with, practices of, and imaginaries about U.S. citizenship reveal the need to rethink our conceptualizations of citizenship in the contemporary world. The values and meanings associated with national citizenship regimes transgress state borders, overlap with one another, and create new frontiers. These meanings and values are distinct and do not always necessarily mirror the experiences of those situated within the official borders of a single citizenship regime. In other words, we need to think about citizenship as an institution, an experience, and a set of practices unfolding in transnational spaces. In this book, we recognize the persistent relations of inequality between states and emphasize the need to locate the diverse meanings and values of citizenship in people's experiences, both inside and outside of countries of origin.
Broadly, this book makes three arguments. First, we propose that the privileges that people associate with U.S. citizenship in countries like Turkey provide a unique vantage point from which to explore the everyday workings of locally specific political polarization, social hierarchies, and cultural contestations. These privileges also give important clues about the long-term power of the United States in the region where Turkey is located, beyond its foreign policy interventions. The American empire persists at the intersection of the history of U.S. foreign policy, U.S. geopolitical prowess, and people's experiences of privilege with and desires for U.S. citizenship outside of the United States. These citizens, current and aspiring, spread across the world, create "the American third world" (Altan 2006a): a new kind of empire of transnational Americans living outside the United States. This is an empire that extends beyond the official borders of the United States and is configured in the seemingly apolitical, everyday practices of American subjects as they fashion their agencies in social realms and cultural contestations ostensibly unrelated to U.S. geopolitical power.
Second, U.S. citizenship, whether the holder is born or naturalized into it, combines a unique set of values and meanings. It plays a powerful role in individuals' identity negotiations between national belonging and transnational aspirations. It enables people to forge creative combinations of subject positions, precisely because they are situated outside of the United States. The allure of U.S. citizenship is also strategic, located in the exit options that it generates in case of crises, the geographical mobility its passport facilitates, and the upward mobility it enables. The status of U.S. citizenship enables individuals to make sense of and reconfigure positions in the political and economic conundrums in transnational spaces.
Finally, these U.S. citizens beyond the borders of the United States reveal the need to rethink the transformation of the institution of citizenship. We argue that we need to take into account the ways in which diverse individual claims and aspirations, in tandem with unequal proliferation of state powers, unfold in transnational spaces. The book argues that national citizenship continues to matter, but now does so in ways that cannot be captured by a sole focus on domestic state-citizen relations. We need to consider how people imagine, experience, and strategize around their citizenship status against a background of macro political circumstances beyond their choosing and not necessarily confined to the official state borders of their citizenship regimes. An increasingly transnationalized world does not necessarily mean a decrease in the significance of national citizenship. National citizenship still matters greatly for ordering inequalities, but now in transnational spaces.
Current and Aspiring Citizens of the United States: A Word on Method and Context
We study U.S. citizenship in Turkey through a total of 110 semi-structured interviews with three groups of people who have different relations to U.S. citizenship. Together they allow us to map the diverse meanings and values attached to U.S. citizenship outside of the United States—ranging from those who imagine what U.S. citizenship means, through those who experience the advantages of this status alongside and in comparison with Turkish citizenship, to those whose U.S. citizenship coincides more unequivocally with "being American." These subjects are parents who do not have U.S. citizenship themselves but traveled to give birth to their children in the United States so that the latter had U.S. citizenship from birth; Turkish citizens by birth who have lived in the United States long enough to obtain a green card or U.S. citizenship; and U.S. citizens who are permanently settled in Turkey. Exploring their personal journeys—which extend to but also go beyond Turkey and the United States—we seek to understand the variety of ways in which actual people imagine, practice and experience U.S. citizenship in Turkey.
The stories we tell in this book are also stories of everyday relations between Turkey and the West told in the context of an increasingly polarized country: a country where scores of urbanites have been socialized into thinking of Turkey as a Western country whereas the current political authorities frequently deploy a rhetoric portraying connections to the West as "a betrayal of the Turkish nation." Studies focusing on Turkey and its relations with the West in general and with the United States, in particular, do so from a macro-political perspective. In contrast, we emphasize the importance of highlighting everyday experiences and narratives that make sense of them, and connecting them to the macropolitical context. Individuals strategize at the intersection of institutions that regulate citizenship, political contexts that affect their lives, and individual resources, which are always unequal. By turning our gaze to actual people and their everyday experiences in contemporary Turkey, we uncover how certain citizenships can become an important tool in managing diverse insecurities.
This research has a very personal starting point for us. We are both middle-class Turkish mothers who previously resided in the United States for close to a decade during our doctoral studies before returning to Turkey after graduation. Evren moved from the United States to Turkey while she was pregnant whereas Özlem gave birth several years after moving to Turkey. When Evren made the decision to return to Turkey while four months pregnant, many around her questioned her judgment. Friends and acquaintances asked her repeatedly why she did not stay in the United States a bit longer to give birth to her daughter Defne there instead. When Özlem was pregnant, she frequently encountered a different variation of this question. Was she going to go back the United States to give birth since she had so many ties there and knew the place inside out? The answer was negative: Her son Efe Yag¨mur was also born in Turkey. On the one hand, these questions evoked guilt about not having made the "right" choice for our children. On the other hand, as social scientists deeply interested in questions of micro politics of belonging and everyday strategizing, we began to think about what these insistent questions meant. Why do people think that it is a good idea to travel thousands of miles in the later stages of pregnancy, spending tens of thousands of dollars in the process, taking on health risks for ourselves and the unborn child, especially during a period when the support of one's family and social network is of paramount importance? What did this say about experiences with the Turkish context as well aspirations regarding U.S. citizenship?
It was with these questions in mind that we initially began the research with interviews with forty parents who had given birth in the United States to acquire U.S. citizenship for their children. We contacted our interviewees, mostly mothers, through different points of entry into the field: There were individuals who had experienced this among our own acquaintances; others we reached through the schools where our children were enrolled; we found online blogs that some women write about their experiences; and our initial contacts led us to more people to interview. Three categories emerged at the intersection of familiarity with the United States and economic power. The first group comprised couples with at least one that had previously lived in the United States and was a high-level professional or business owner. This group not only had significant economic resources but also in-depth familiarity with the workings of everyday life in the United States. The second group was also made up of high-level professionals with substantial income and wealth. However, unlike the first group, their familiarity with the United States was limited to short-term visits for pleasure or business. Nevertheless, they could claim knowledge of and affinity with what they often referred to as "the American way of life." The third group was the smallest of the three: Even though they too had visited the United States briefly and claimed cultural affinity, their financial means were more limited. All interviews, which on average lasted between one and two hours, covered the parents' motivations for and interpretations of their children's citizenship status, the intricacies of the journey itself and the ways in which parents were raising their children in Turkey.
We conducted these interviews in 2012 and at the beginning of 2013, a time in Turkish political history when the governing Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalk§nma Partisi, AKP) had begun alienating the liberal and secular middle classes, accusing them of being elitist. Its grip on political power was rising as it had successfully neutralized the military, a move desired by many, although the party then moved on to intimidate and repress opposition groups as well as to encroach on the independence of the judiciary. This was a time when the overwhelming sentiment among Turkey's secular urban middle and upper classes was a fear that the early republican values of secularism and Western modernity were being damaged, along with a sense of a loss of stable life trajectories and sociocultural privileges.
This first group of interviewees belonged to those sections of Turkish society who were increasingly anxious about the possibility that the quality of their lives and their domestic status could decline. This anxiety had pushed them to strategize for their children's future in case their predictions about Turkey's worsening ties with the West, rising authoritarianism and desecularization would come true. They told us stories of their own upbringings and the insecurities that they felt in the contemporary context. Many described the longing they had for the freedom they had experienced when they lived in the United States or had observed about everyday life during their visits there. When people talked about their desires for individual freedom and a predictable political setting, these comments were intricately connected to apprehensions about the Turkish context. They also signified a sense of loss: These groups, regardless of their income and wealth, were brought up with an inherent sense of high social status because they had shared in the hegemonic narrative of Turkey as a nation that is part of the West (Altan-Olcay and Balta 2016). At this juncture, however, they felt that this narrative was losing credibility, along with their historically assumed social and cultural identities and privileges associated with them. In the end, because they did not feel capable of doing much to change the political affairs of the country, they used their individual resources to take precautions for their children's future. Hence, for them, U.S. citizenship was a "gift" to their children (Balta and Altan-Olcay 2016) that represented expanded future possibilities and acted as a signifier of how the parents wanted to raise them. More important, people perceived it as a crucial precaution for the children if the parents' premonitions about becoming the new minority in Turkey reached a point where they felt threatened.
As our interviews accumulated, patterns began to emerge: among others, anxieties about future risks, the motivation to protect children from such risks, and U.S. citizenship as possible insurance. The narratives we heard revealed imaginaries about and expectations of U.S. citizenship by people who themselves do not have the status (or plan to acquire it). However, it also became clear that these conversations were largely about the unknown future experiences of the children. At the time we conducted this first group of interviews, all the children whose parents we talked to were under the age of sixteen. We had little insight into what the children's experiences and perceptions were concerning U.S. citizenship. With this in mind, we expanded our scope to ask a more inclusive question about how U.S. citizenship is experienced outside the United States, particularly in Turkey. Over the course of 2014 and 2015, we conducted interviews with two additional groups of actors: U.S. citizens by birth who had come to settle in Turkey during their adulthood and Turkish citizens who had become naturalized in the United States but returned to Turkey.
Our second group of interviewees included thirty-six U.S. citizens who were permanently settled in Turkey. This group had rich experiences with transnational mobility, career choices, and more intimate reasons, such as marriage, that took them outside the United States. In contacting this group, we also used various networks, such as acquaintances, institutional affiliations, personal blogs, and expatriate lists, in order to achieve diversity across gender, profession, age, and duration of stay. This group was also the most diverse in terms of socioeconomic origins. The stories of their familial backgrounds, upbringings, the schools they attended, and the options they had after graduating from college clearly revealed a wide range of socioeconomic opportunities in the United States. We asked them to describe their upbringing in the United States, the choices that led them eventually to Turkey, their experiences of the transition to and living in Turkey, and their personal interpretations of privileges and ambivalences of "being American." Often we saw that, for this group, Turkey was not the only place outside of the United States in which they had lived, as many had also stayed in other countries in Europe, the Middle East, and the Far East, allowing us to tap into rich accounts of being transnationalized Americans with experiences of privilege in comparison with the citizens of various countries, including but not limited to Turkey.
These were actors who were natural-born U.S. citizens, socialized thoroughly in their country of origin, but now continuing their lives in Turkey. Thus, the meanings and values they associated with U.S. citizenship were informed deeply by their identification with "Americanness." Their narratives revealed complicated issues of national belonging, however: Having lived in Turkey—and, for several, other countries in the developing world—they had seen firsthand the historical impact of U.S. foreign policy around the world. They could also compare the more consumerist everyday life in the United States with the significantly narrower range of choices outside. These experiences invariably produced discomfort about what it meant to be American. Yet at the same time, being recognized as an American almost always turned into various personal experiences of privilege. When individuals talked about the latter, some found themselves expressing patriotic pride. These experiences of privilege encompassed more lucrative jobs, interesting career paths, and elevated social status. They signaled the symbolic recognition that being an American elicited and how it could translate into upward mobility that was not available to the same degree if they had stayed in the United States. Once again, however, these were complicated processes, with people's ethnic and racial backgrounds as well as gender and sexuality playing significant roles in the outcome. Ultimately, this group's narratives documented the conditions under which U.S. citizenship and nationality come to be associated with one another and produce upward social mobility outside the United States.
Finally, we interviewed thirty-four individuals of Turkish birth who held a green card or U.S. citizenship. They had obtained their status mainly through long-term stay in the United States (as students and later for work-related reasons), the diversity lottery, or spousal/familial connections. At the time of the interviews, most of this group had returned to and decided to permanently settle in Turkey. We also conducted interviews with a small number of individuals who were still living in the United States but were entertaining, to different degrees, the option of returning to Turkey in the near future. These individuals were thus "hyphenated American citizens:" They had grown up in Turkey, some up to college age, some up to the point where they began graduate studies, and almost all into their twenties. Many had lived in the United States for at least a decade. Now back in Turkey permanently or visiting frequently, they had a distinct comparative perspective on Turkish and U.S. citizenship. We asked them about their life trajectories, their move to the United States and back to Turkey, their motivations for and experiences with obtaining the green card and/or U.S. citizenship, and how they currently lived with their dual citizenship in and outside the United States and Turkey, including the benefits that they gained and the ambivalences they experienced.
On the one hand, this group, more than any other, provided us with colorful stories about the strategic advantages of U.S. citizenship for crossing nation-state borders compared to Turkish citizenship. Furthermore, their dual citizenship status worked for them in a unique way: When they decided to go back to Turkey, they could utilize their Turkish upbringing and familiarity with Turkey to find jobs, while using their green card or U.S. citizenship to push for more lucrative, higher-status positions. Furthermore, the status of U.S. citizenship meant that the move to Turkey did not have to be permanent; they could circulate between Turkey and the United States if necessary. On the other hand, their stories were never only about the strategic advantages of having dual citizenship. Rather, U.S. citizenship also signified for them a cosmopolitan cultural disposition and confirmed their aspirations to belong to a transnational network of mobile actors. In other words, these actors also saw their U.S. citizenship in terms of political belonging. They often tied their U.S. citizenship status to personal dispositions, which they felt were more in tune with what they described as the American culture and which made them feel alienated in contemporary Turkey. Yet, their narratives were rife with ambivalences and contradictions as they tried to juggle their simultaneous cultural affinities with the United States and Turkey.
This group included the secular middle and upper classes as in the group of parents. Their narratives resonated with the first group's but enriched them with actual experiences of U.S. citizenship. In these narratives, we could see the dominance of fears about the political future of Turkey in conjunction with economic opportunities, and frequent references to possession of U.S. citizenship to explain transnational identities and to retain distance from contemporary hegemonic political discourses in Turkey. Interestingly, however, the group also included middle-class individuals who defined themselves as conservative and had political identifications with the AKP in government. These individuals also found something alluring in what they referred to as "American culture." Even when they spoke harshly against U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, their personal stories also revealed a fascination with values like individual freedom and cultural tolerance. For them, their experiences of religious tolerance in the United States stood out as the major attraction of the so-called American culture. Such stories revealed intense and diverse meanings attributed to America from the outside. The American dream with its promises of individual freedom and (various types of) multiculturalism spoke to desires and self-perceptions of cosmopolitanism. However, there was almost always a hesitation in these statements: Almost immediately after defining themselves using adjectives such as cosmopolitan, transnational, and multicultural, people often felt the need to assert that they belonged in Turkey. U.S. citizenship carried intense symbolic meaning, but one that needed to be constantly explained and defended as the actors went about their lives in Turkey. They were never "Turkish Turkish" nor "American American," as one of them put it.
Overall, what linked these latter two groups—despite their ethnic, national, and religious differences—was their American citizenship and the ways in which Americanness and social class positions became mutually constitutive of each other outside the United States. For many of the Turkish Americans, their access to U.S. citizenship had become a possibility because of their middle- or upper-class origins in Turkey, although there was also a small group with working-class backgrounds. As for Americans who permanently settled in Turkey, being an American outside the United States often resulted in a variety of privileges, regardless of their original socioeconomic backgrounds. Their narratives suggested the emergence of an American transnational class whose privileges are intricately connected to being outside the United States. This book is also about the shaping of this new class of transnational Americans and the values they attach to U.S. citizenship.
Although we do rely on the rich narratives of our interviewees to organize our discussion of concepts such as transnational and global as well the United States, America, and Americanness, we are theoretically inspired by debates in citizenship and migration studies. We do not use these terms interchangeably but rather they denote specific lenses through which experiences of strategizing, belonging, and mobility are interpreted. When we sift through our material, one thing becomes quite evident: When people talk about the U.S. or the U.S. citizenship, this is often an allusion to very material relationships that individuals establish with the state through the official institution of citizenship. We retain this logic in our own thinking and use the concept of U.S. citizenship thematically to discuss material circumstances that it enables. When people discuss American citizenship, these narratives either focus solely on cultural identifications of what it means to be an American or straddle ambiguous connections between identity and privilege. We build on these to open the diverse ways in which citizenship connotes more than national origin. We emphasize that while the geopolitical power of the U.S. is to be traced within the very material inequalities between states, we need to always make a connection between this power and the transnational imaginaries of America, as Grewal suggests (2005).
In the interviews, the differences between global and transnational are harder to decipher: People use multiple words to assert their positions with respect to their birth citizenships and build individualized identity narratives. They can use the terms "global citizenship," "transnational citizenship," or "cosmopolitan citizenship" interchangeably, while also arguing some national contexts are more open to multicultural belonging. In describing state level power inequalities, we use "global," "bilateral," or "international" depending on what level of relations are under consideration. We find in these everyday narratives traces of a history of diverse usages of the concept of the transnational, ranging from advocacy networks to capitalist classes, civil society to wars, cultural connections to migrant flows (Appadurai 1996; Faist 2000; Glick Schiller 1997; Glick Schiller, Basch and Szanton Blanc 1995; Grewal 2005; Kivisto 2003; Portes 1999, Sklair 2001; Urry 2000). Faist conceptualizes "transnational social space" as a way of thinking about the multilayered actors and flows involved in border crossing and boundary breaking processes. He proposes it as a conceptual tool through which to explore the creation of new social spaces across borders as people traverse them, retain a multiplicity of social ties and respond to structural circumstances defined by markets as well as states (Faist 2000). He emphasizes the importance of looking at impact not only through the lens of individual lives, but also attending to the changes in the very institutions and inequalities people navigate (Faist 2010, 2016). Following this suggestion, we consider the navigation that is happening between the U.S. and the Turkish state borders a transnational practice, a border crossing that generates a new social space where both the actors and their citizenship status acquires new meanings.
We also rely on Grewal's usage of "transnational America" to indicate how American citizenship, practices, and imaginaries around it create an America beyond the borders of the United States. This transnational America is indicative and productive of social hierarchies elsewhere, as well as identity narratives, which claim to transcend the nation while being informed by it (Grewal 2005). Thus, throughout the text when we use the concept transnational, this usage deliberately focuses on individuals' practices and imaginaries around America and American citizenship without losing sight of the fact that these practices are never divorced from state powers and state-level power relations (Faist 2010; Faist and Kivisto 2010; Grewal 2005). Overall, we aim to examine international, transnational, and global scales as sites through which individual interactions can change existing social orders and create new ones (Go and Lawson 2017, 27). We move away from analyses in which individual narratives are assumed to be completely structured through macro-level processes. Instead we adopt a form of methodological relationalism that starts from the constitutive relations between "inside" and "outside" and treat the national, transnational and global as scales rather than discrete units of analysis (Go and Lawson 2017, 28). We show how forms of citizenship are created as individuals interact with institutions and navigate, reproduce and reshape scales.
Of course, state-level processes were an integral part of the context in which our interviewees lived, strategized, and talked with us. In the summer of 2013, around the time we finished our interviews with the parents, Turkey experienced its own wave of popular protests, following in the footsteps of the Arab Uprisings. What started out as a small, localized demonstration against increasing encroachment on public space and the shopping mall-ization of Istanbul quickly spread to many cities to become a massive mobilization against the government's increasingly authoritarian tendencies. After a euphoric couple of months, however, the protests were crushed and the government's repressive measures against opposition groups took a suffocating turn. It was in this context that we conducted interviews with the second and third groups during the course of 2014 and 2015. Scenarios about what could go worse were becoming more tangible and more plausible while people were also witnessing the ramifications of the Syrian refugee crisis in the city's everyday life. The tragedy of hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees whose livelihoods depended on the whims of the Turkish state reminded people of the civil war and ISIS violence next door and made questions of free mobility across borders a more immediate concern. These observations sharpened our interviewees' perceptions of and experiences with life in the United States, the status of U.S. citizenship, and what it means to an American or a Turkish national.
The arguments we make are necessarily limited to the groups of people whose stories we captured against the sociopolitical background in which they conducted their lives. In other words, we do not claim to make generalizations about a specific population or the entire Global South. However, our arguments about the meanings and values of U.S. citizenship in transnational contexts are also enriched to the extent that we were able to delve deeply into the experiences of our interviewees in Turkey, the United States, and anywhere else they might have lived. Ours is a quest to document the nature of a process that may provide important insights into the workings of U.S. citizenship in conjunction with U.S. global power elsewhere. This is an intermediate, limited generalization that offers a way to trace processes in people's narratives of everyday experiences (Payne and Williams 2005). This level of generalization is also reflexive, guided by our own situatedness (Harding 1995): We, as researchers, are also part of the web of relations that cross borders, but we retain painstaking awareness of them. This is a web of relations that includes mobilities, imaginaries, desires, and experiences of "other" lives in a context defined by a history of state formation in Turkey, the Turkish state's shifting geopolitical positioning, and relationship with the U.S. global power.
American Culture and the American Empire in the Middle East: New Trajectories
What are the various ways in which America is imagined outside of the U.S.? How are these imaginations informed by local political and sociocultural contestations? What do these processes say about American cultural power? Answers to such questions have been located at the intersection of postcolonial studies, which explore the enduring influence of "the West" in newly formed nation-states, and in studies of "the American empire." In dialogue with this literature, we are especially interested in understanding the lure of U.S. citizenship, its uncertainties, and the privileged experiences it entails in a context where U.S. power has been visibly present.
Postcolonial studies show us how "the West" became the object of multiple, ambivalent discourses during and after modern nation-state formation in the twentieth century. On the one hand, the West signified the intruder, the one whose unequal power resulted in experiences of colonization. On the other hand, in the establishment of postcolonial nation-states, the need to reckon with this power was realized in institutional continuities, discourses of modernization, dynamic contestations about what cultural practices were required for achieving modernization, and how these would sit with claims of cultural authenticity (Blom and Stepputat, 2001; Krishna, 1992; Ludden, 1992). These are histories in which the nationalist elite reacted to and adopted colonial powers' discursive contrasts between the "civilized," "rational," "enlightened" "Western" and its "Eastern" other. These dichotomies were also complicit in discourses of who truly belonged as a citizen in the new, modern nation-state and who did not (Adas 1989; Chatterjee 1993; Mamdani 1996). Often, those who were able to fashion themselves through discourses of modernization were the groups that successfully claimed the position of "desirable citizens" as opposed to those in need of being "modernized," "educated," and "civilized."
As the anticolonial nationalist elite sought to simultaneously define their cultural authenticity and catch up with Western powers, they also engaged in producing homogenized and selective definitions of "the West." These debates did not necessarily only occur at the level of the political leadership either. On the contrary, meanings of "the West," "Western" and "modern" became central to larger cultural processes and contestations. Westernized dispositions and an intimate knowledge of the workings of former colonial powers became particularly central to the urban classes' self-definitions through a wide variety of cultural and consumption practices that continue today (Altan-Olcay 2008; Babb 2001; Colonna 1997; de Koning 2006; Öncü 1999; Peterson 2011; Pink 2009; Üstüner and Holt 2010). In other words, questions of Western identity have figured across a widespread terrain and they have always been conflicted. While the locally adopted imaginaries of the West have become central to individualized claims of value, legitimacy, and distinction during the twentieth century, anxieties surrounding questions of "authenticity," in both the new nation-states and the West, have also turned them into continuous struggles (Bhabha 1997; Chakrabarty 1997; Chatterjee 1989 and 1993). These processes, we know, speak to both the local politics of modernization and the enduring power of former colonial powers in these contexts.
Over time, and especially in the second half of the twentieth century, for parts of the world where U.S. state power was increasingly felt, "the West" began to be associated more strongly with the United States itself. To that end, American cultural power—its production, dissemination, reception, and re-appropriation—became paramount in everyday politics both inside and outside of the United States (Berghahn 2001; Little 2008; McAlister 2001; Saunders 2000). Grewal argues that studying the American nation as well as U.S. state power in contemporary global politics requires more than readings of U.S. foreign policy or domestic politics. It necessitates looking into what America means, as well as into the construction of American subjects beyond U.S. borders. She makes the case that constellations of consumer citizenship as symbolized in "the American dream" and discourses of multiculturalism have produced diverse notions of America, circulated among and translated across networks of the upper and middle classes in postcolonial contexts, and immigrant and diaspora communities. Accordingly, this dream extends far beyond the borders of the country to "many who have never lived in or visited the United States" (Grewal 2005, 206). She argues that this is the fundamental global power of the United States, generated at the intersection of geopolitics, neoliberalism, and the biopolitical performances of the so-called American dream (Grewal 2005).
In Turkey as well as the Middle East at large, the American dream has been associated with privilege, modernity, and transnationality in complex ways. For instance, American-style education has played a role in making locally specific class and status claims (Altan-Olcay 2008 and 2012; Anderson 2011; Miller-Idriss and Hanauer 2011). In general, local adaptations of U.S. consumption patterns have played ambivalent but powerful roles in creating social distinctions (de Koning 2006; Kuppinger 2000; Üstüner and Holt 2010). The meanings that "Americanized" consumption patterns and cultural practices carry around the world have almost always been classed processes. For most populations, it would be safe to say that U.S. geopolitical power can evoke nationalist reactions, often also encouraged by populist governments. The upper and middle classes, with more access to Westernized institutions, education systems, and cultural products, are more likely to associate "American" with cosmopolitanism and transnationality, although this tendency also rests on their precarious ability to separate their own cultural dispositions from negative connotations of U.S. political power in the world (Altan-Olcay 2008 and 2009b).
Notions of American culture circulate globally in diverse and unexpected ways. Edwards (2015), for instance, discusses the ways in which American cultural products are appropriated in the Middle East at the same time as they are stripped of their links to the United States. Building a theorization of endless circulation, he traces these processes of appropriation and reappropriation to show that the result is often cultural products whose meanings may not be readily recognizable in or translatable back to the United States (Edwards 2015). He invokes the possibility of the fragility of U.S. "soft" power given this explosion of meaning production outside U.S. borders.
We want to ask a related but different question of circulation: What happens if we think about the global diffusion and transformation of "American culture" together with the historical roles it has played in organizing social stratification elsewhere? Here we follow in the footsteps of Bourdieu (1984, 1986, 1987, 1989) and contemporary studies of social class. We look at individualized strategies of identity-making (Bottero 2004; Devine et al. 2005; Savage 2000), and the ways individuals claim distinction through the embodiment of American cultural practices and consumption patterns (Katz-Gerro 2002; Lamont and Molnár 2002; Lawler 2005; Le Roux et al. 2008; Savage, Bagnall and Longhurst 2001). We suggest that, in a world where "American culture" is more widespread and more available in the form of consumption patterns and lifestyle choices, the contribution it makes to people's individualized classification struggles inevitably declines. This signals that the cosmopolitan middle and upper classes in locations such as Turkey need to invent new strategies to assert Westernized identities before claiming local distinctions on that basis. For those who can access it, U.S. citizenship becomes just that. It is a status that brings privilege outside the United States for various groups, in conjunction with the U.S. government's global power. For these groups, cultural affinity with the U.S. is no longer enough to assert contextually specific stratifications, so they seek U.S. citizenship. This is an example where U.S. "soft" power actually continues to work, not only through unequal processes of globalized cultural production and dissemination, but also by offering a globally privileged citizenship and the feeling of security associated with it despite increasingly negative perceptions of the U.S. government.
There is a second contextual element that contributes to the workings of U.S. power through desires for and privileges associated with U.S. citizenship. This phenomenon is occurring in an era when market economies are being consolidated around the world. Economies are liberalizing and paving the way for transnational cultural access, globally shared consumption patterns, and border-crossing mobility for more privileged segments of populations everywhere (Elliott and Urry 2010). In much of the world, however, and contrary to expectations, economic liberalization has not been accompanied by political liberalization. In fact, in Turkey, along with numerous nation-states in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Latin America, it has often been each state's ability to monopolize political power that has made possible the consolidation of market economies and economic deregulation despite popular resistance. Histories of state repression and neoliberalization in these places are also intricately connected to the history of successive U.S. governments' geostrategic alliances, regional presence, and interventions (Migdal 2014; Yom 2015), complicating the "values" associated with American culture (Altan-Olcay 2008). In the current context—following popular uprisings against authoritarianism, corruption and social injustice (Bellin 2012; Lynch 2014)—things have taken a turn for the worse in several countries, including Turkey (Bozarslan 2015; Heydemann and Lender 2013; Prashad 2012).
This is the setting. On the one hand, U.S. cultural practices and products are more desirable, accessible, and globally recognizable, mostly due to the transnationalization of market economies. On the other hand, U.S. foreign policy continues to wreak havoc across the world, contributing to local and regional dynamics that lead to rising authoritarianism and political unpredictability. As a result, anti-Americanism is on the rise, also with the encouragement of populist governments. Yet it is in this context that we argue that U.S. citizenship embodies durable claims of distinction and might provide protection from the whims of authoritarian politics in a way that access to and socialization in Western institutions cannot. The narratives of our interviewees show that U.S. citizens can make claims of transnationality and cosmopolitanism while also achieving higher socioeconomic status. U.S. citizenship can offer official protection against rising nationalist and authoritarian tendencies, provide access to the global protection of the U.S. state, and allow mobility in a transnational space despite overwhelmingly negative popular sentiments about the exercise of U.S. global power (Krastev 2004). People value and desire U.S. citizenship because it enables more seamless border-crossing than passports of most citizenship regimes in the Global South. It allows easier escape from political and economic crises, and its recognizability protects against downward social mobility.
These desires and perceptions elicit the need to think about U.S. citizenship's ability to provide unequal transnational opportunities and symbolic recognition at the individual level. The privileges that people associate with U.S. citizenship in places like Turkey are indeed indicative of workings of U.S. power, at the intersection of geopolitics and biopolitics (Grewal 2005). This includes not only the weight of the U.S. government's foreign policy and the global recognizability of U.S. cultural products, but it also manifests itself in the symbolic recognition and privileges that U.S. citizenship generates across the world. U.S. citizens create a new kind of empire whose borders and state-citizen relations do not map neatly onto recognizable political territories. This is a fragmented imperial state, whose power manifests itself in the ability to have, protect, and create recognized and privileged extraterritorial citizens, and retain desires for membership across the world (Isin 2015).
The 1990s witnessed the flourishing of a literature discussing, in addition to the concept of transnational citizenship, notions such as "global citizenship" and "cosmopolitan citizenship" (Appadurai 1996; Falk 1994; Hannerz 1996). Hannerz's classical formulation of "transnational communities" is useful for describing how such communities can be formed without permanent relocation across nation-state borders (Hannerz 1996, 89, 98). These networks can develop around common educational experiences, occupations, and kinship and friendship (Hannerz 1996), not limited to places of birth or residence. They can also emerge from market exchanges and the ease of access to cultural production elsewhere (Appadurai 1996). These studies showed that transnational practices and acts of citizenship (Isin 2008) are without doubt on the rise, and true for diverse groups of people: immigrants retaining connections with countries of origin (Fitzgerald 2009; Glick Schiller 1999; Levitt 2003; Portes 1996), advocacy networks (Keck and Sikkink 1998; Sikkink 2002) and the career-motivated relocations of professionals in multinationals (Robinson and Harris 2000; Sklair 2001; van der Pijl 1998) among others. In the 1990s, these actors and their experiences appeared to suggest multiple paths for postnational lives in a world of shared cosmopolitan meanings.
A second aspect of this transnationalization has been advance of the universal human rights discourses. The Westphalian conception of citizenship has been based on the assertion of attributing a citizenship status to everyone and has depended on the mutual recognition of these statuses by states, although it has never prescribed content in terms of rights or political participation (Bauböck 2018). However, over time, normative and widespread acceptance of the universality of human rights has begun to fill out the ultrathin conception of citizenship, one that is neutral with regard to the nature of political regimes (Balibar 2004; Bauböck 1994; Faist 2009; Soysal 1994, Bauböck 2018). This process has also suggested possibilities for expanding of noncitizen rights and the dilution of nation-state-based identities (Joppke 2010 and 2018; Soysal 1994; Spiro 2007). In a world where rights are relatively divorced from citizenship status, people can act as citizens and become rightfully recognized members of a society even when they do not hold its official citizenship (Bosniak 2006; Vora 2013). They can access rights, based on the recognition of their personhood and their residence in host societies while attaching identity meanings to their countries of origin (Soysal 1994). They can also assert transnational identities, loyalties and engage in political actions, which are not limited to singular nation-states of birth (Bauböck 2007; Brubaker 1989; Fitzgerald 2004; Smith 2003 and 2007; Soysal 2012).
During the same period, these transformations have caused many scholars to argue that the value of national membership and national citizenship has decreased (Spiro 2007; Soysal 1994). Spiro, in fact, has said, "when everyone is American, no one is," in order to argue that U.S. citizenship as a source of national identity and its ability to draw distinct boundaries around who an American is weakening (Spiro 2008, 52). This is the case, he argued, not only because what is considered "American" is adopted by many around the world, but also because U.S. citizens have multiple sources for defining their allegiances and identities. More recently, however, he has also built a connection between the status of dual citizenship and individual rights to autonomy and freedom of association, thereby emphasizing that access to dual citizenship for immigrants is a human right (Spiro 2016). He has also argued that that dual citizenship is in the interest of nation-states and strengthens state-based connections, even though, in the long run, it will likely undermine the intensity of national identities, hollowing out the state from within and accelerating a postnational world (Spiro 2016, 131-132). As a result, intensification of access to dual citizenship will, over time, contribute to the "decoupling of the citizenship status from actual parameters of community" (Spiro 2016, 134).
Against this background of transnational identities, practices, and the growing acceptance of the framework of universal human rights, however, there is also a wind of change: Populist nationalist rhetoric is spreading across the world, accompanied by, at the very least, intense policy debates on "protecting" borders and collective identities (from the "encroaching immigrants") (Brown 2017). It is in this world of contradictory pulls of transnational aspirations and renationalizing tendencies that Bauböck has observed that while citizenship as an institution is in decline, demand for Western passports seems to be on the rise (2018). How can we understand these evolving contradictions and tensions?
Transnational citizenship itself denotes a situation in which borders between nation-states become more and more porous in a world of global connectedness (Castells 2000). And yet, despite this image of mobile populations, nation-state borders are still barriers to most, providing seamless transit only to actors with the "right" passports, the "right" class positions, and the "right" cultural capital (Balibar 2004). The ease of mobility across borders, as Elliott and Urry (2010, 79) have argued, has become essential to membership in an increasingly transnational world. This is a world in which, although increasing opportunities for mobility emancipate certain groups from territorial constraints, majorities do not have similar chances (Beck 2008; Bauman 1988). While we do not normatively juxtapose locality and mobility to social hierarchies, we suggest that unequal visa requirements that privilege citizens from rich democracies create a new kind of global stratification (Mau 2010). The more "privileged" passports mean that their holders can change residence flexibly and take for granted minimal stigmatization wherever they live.
In other words, U.S. citizenship is not the only citizenship that offers chances of geographical mobility, protection against economic and political risks, transnational possibilities for upward status and class mobility, as well as symbolic recognition of belonging in the West. At the time of the interviews and the few years that has passed since then, Turkey has continued its downward political spiral. The election of Donald Trump in the U.S. has also been raising questions about how safe and predictable the so-called American system, about which many of our interviewees talked, will remain. In the current atmosphere, anecdotal evidence and newspaper reporting indicates that U.S. citizenship is not the only status that is valued. Turkish Jewish citizens are applying for Israeli and Spanish citizenships, based on ancestral ties. The descendants of Turkish migrants from Bulgaria, who arrived in Turkey in different waves from Bulgaria, are applying for Bulgarian citizenship in such numbers that there are rumors that the government offices and archives, from which applicants need to collect documents, have ground to a halt in the face of demand. Those with more means are buying up property in places like Greece, Spain, Portugal, and Malta to obtain residence and mobility rights in the EU. Although official figures are hard to come by, the intensity of demand can be seen in the emergence of legal consultancy and international real estate firms that provide services to these groups. These stories do not necessarily indicate a decline in the value of U.S. citizenship, as evidenced, for instance, by the few interviewees who had more than two passports and said that they would retain only the U.S. citizenship if push comes to shove. Yet they show the diverse ways in which individuals strategize to offset what they see as a decline in their primary citizenships, given the means at their disposal. As political and economic circumstances shift in Turkey as well as abroad, people's perceptions of national citizenships and the strategies they develop also change.
What doesn't change, however, is that transnationalization of identities, rights and even meanings attributed to citizenship does not necessarily mean a decline of the institution of national citizenship. We need to consider the unequal opportunities that national citizenship regimes offer in transnational spaces. We suggest that these discussions can be enriched if we take into account the continuous inequalities between citizenship regimes together with unequal possibilities for transnationalization at the level of individual actors. It is these overlapping inequalities that signal the persistent importance of national citizenships, albeit in a different manner.
Hierarchies of Citizenship in Transnational Spaces
Ayelet Shachar (2009) has famously argued that not all citizenships are equal in terms of the opportunities they provide to their holders, and that they can be thought of as property in a broad manner. She points to the fact that certain citizenships are more valuable than others because of the role they play in determining people's positions in a globally unequal distribution of security and opportunity. These systemic inequalities (Shachar 2007) are all the more problematic because they are bequeathed on people through the arbitrariness of birthright citizenship (Shachar and Hirschl 2007), outside of the control of actual people. The question for us is how individuals attempt or desire to navigate these conditions of inequality between citizenship regimes, drawing also on inequalities within citizenship regimes.
We show that inequalities between citizenship regimes crystallize the tensions between one's feeling of belonging and the instrumental values of official citizenship status, the latter being an outcome of economic and political hierarchies within the state system. Whereas states at the top of these hierarchies provide more opportunities to their members, those at the bottom provide fewer. Our contention is that these unequal opportunities are not restricted to life chances within the nation-states, but also manifest themselves in terms of freedom to travel, to settle and live elsewhere. As a result, life chances of individuals are increasingly determined not only by the socioeconomic hierarchies in which they are situated nationally, but also by unequal transnationalizing opportunities attached to particular citizenship regimes. In other words, by focusing on the transnational value of the U.S. citizenship, we emphasize how global sorting of citizenship rights interacts with domestic hierarchies and how actors on the ground negotiate this dual inequality.
Studying actual experiences with and desires for U.S. citizenship provides a unique opportunity to understand how this negotiation happens in the everyday. Our discussion shows that the transnational meanings and values attached to U.S. citizenship are strikingly different from those that could be evoked at the national level. Our three groups all repeated with different levels of intensity the assertions that the U.S. passport gives its holder an exit option in case of crises, facilitates a greater degree of geographical mobility in general, and the status associated with it enables upward mobility in the developing world. They shared stories of how their status elevated once outside the U.S. and repeated in different ways the protection they expected to receive from the U.S. government globally. These experiences and expectations of U.S. citizenship can also be perceived as what Joppke (2010, 161-162) calls "light citizenship," one that "confer[s] many transnational rights without obligations and with a cultural content that requires belonging not to a particular national culture but to universal values."
Yet there is more: These narratives also show how conflicted these processes are and how they entail much more than clear calculations of cost and benefit. By approaching values and meanings attached to citizenship regimes from the vantage point of transnational experiences with and aspirations of U.S. citizenship, we rescale questions identity and juxtapose them with individual motivations for improving status outside the borders of the United States. U.S. citizenship enables people to make creative combinations of subject positions and offers these advantages mostly because they are situated outside the United States. This is thus a transnationalized U.S. citizenship, established and re-established each moment people actively imagine and/or experience privileges in connection to their passports. U.S. citizenship manifests its hierarchical power not in the United States, but when its holders move outside. The unfolding of these hierarchies around U.S. citizenship reveal also the need to rethink the transformation of the institution of citizenship. When values and meanings associated with national citizenship regimes no longer fit within neatly drawn state borders, they also transgress them, produce new boundaries, and construct new hierarchies.
These hierarchies are crystallized especially when we look at debates in dual citizenship. Dual (and even multiple) citizenship is now accepted by a growing number of states, resulting in increasing numbers of people holding more than one passport (Pogonyi 2011; Sejersen 2008; Spiro 2018). Scholars have explained this shift as part of ethno-nationalist strategies to reach out to large diasporas abroad, to maximize remittances, to plant foreign policy satellites abroad, and/or to win elections at home through absentee votes (Joppke 2018, Spiro 2016 and 2018, Harpaz 2018). In other words, as geographical distances shrink and social transactions are no longer confined to territoriality, we also see state structures that position themselves with respect to populations spread beyond official state borders (Joppke 2018, 10). Yet these developments are not necessarily the result only of direct, decipherable motivations on the part of states. Faist et al. explain them in terms of a path-dependent process influenced both by domestic norm changes, such as gender equality and the jus soli principle, and relevant international conventions, treaties, and court decisions (Faist, Gerdes and Rieple 2004. Spiro (2016, 13-15) shows that the instances of dual nationality are as old as the concept of nationality. However, in the early models of nationality, subject and claim, rather than citizen and right, were the central notions. Competition between the states was over keeping their subjects, so expatriation represented an intolerable loss of strength. He shows how, over time, states lost their capacity and incentive to suppress the status of dual citizenship because of the intensification of mobility across borders; the universalization of a framework of human rights, which constrains state treatment of individuals; and the mechanization of militaries, rendering manpower less important for state competition in the international system (Spiro 2016). Accordingly, as a result of all these changes, the old notion of loyalty to the sovereign has collapsed and dual citizenship has become more acceptable.
This is a world in which individuals in a growing number of countries are legally free to become a citizen of another country without necessarily giving up their birth citizenship. As the state incentives towards dual citizenship have shifted, so have individual motivations and strategies (Joppke 2018; Spiro 2016 and 2018). One interesting result has been the case of individuals who strategize to overcome the global hierarchy of citizenships through acquiring a "high-value citizenship" of a "first-tier state" (Harpaz 2018). Literature shows such individuals have asymmetric relationships with their two countries, depending on places of residence: An individual may enjoy a wide range of citizenship rights from a country where they do not reside. They may not have to pay taxes or fulfill any of the traditional duties associated with formal membership but they continue to be a member of a second polity while converting it into advantages in the home polity (Benhabib 2007; Harpaz 2010; Harpaz and Mateos 2018).
Examples are numerous: Descendents of European immigrants in Latin America use ancestral connections to access citizenships of countries in the EU (Cook-Martín 2013; Tintori 2011). Citizens of non-EU countries in Europe also do so, making use of shifting borders, especially in Eastern Europe (Neofotistos 2009). Harpaz shows that many, not only from Latin America but also East European countries, apply for a second passport for similar strategic reasons (Harpaz 2018). In these cases, the second nationality is a far less costly alternative than immigration and acts as compensatory citizenship, making up for deficits in the original citizenship in terms of opportunities, security, rights, and travel freedom (Harpaz 2010).
Not everyone with whom we have talked had dual citizenship, but the ways in which our interviewees narrated their experiences revealed how hierarchies between citizenship regimes are experienced at the level of the individual. The majority of adult U.S. citizens who have had this status from birth did not express the need or desire for Turkish citizenship, echoing Spiro's observation that additional citizenships bring marginal advantage to those who are citizens of the countries of the Global North (2018). Yet everyone else, whether it is parents who desire a second citizenship for their children even if they do not have one for themselves or Turkish citizens who got naturalized in the U.S., talked about the ways this second citizenship creates expanded opportunities. These narratives resonate with recent discussions on dual citizenship as well as "the instrumental turn" in citizenship granting rules and individual strategies for acquiring additional citizenships (Joppke 2018). They also prove Spiro's assertion about how such strategies among individuals in the Global South stem from existing inequalities and deepen them (2016 and 2018).
In a similar manner, Aihwa Ong's well-known concept of "flexible citizenship" draws attention to how privileged actors across the world strategize to access and combine different sovereignty regimes through the acquisition of multiple passports (Ong 1999 and 2006). She documents this process for the case of Chinese emigrants to the United States and other nation-states, who spread their homes and businesses between multiple countries in an effort to make use of economic opportunities in China while also hedging against its political risks through family members' additional citizenships. Fitzgerald (2009) calls the process whereby emigrants can make use of multiple citizenships "citizenship à la carte." With this conceptualization, he draws attention to how emigrants may have greater leverage to pick and choose from a menu of citizenship rules in order to ensure more favorable combinations of rights and obligations for themselves. These two cases, which look at different groups with divergent resources—Chinese merchant families and Mexican immigrants in the United States—show that conditions of transnationality are largely possible with constellations of multiple citizenships and do not necessarily mean nation-state memberships are becoming less significant (Bauböck 2010; Brøndsted 2008). In these two cases, access to U.S. citizenship enables people to become transnational. In other words, conditions of transnationality derive from the hierarchical ordering of nation-state citizenships.
Joppke has written that states have historically always been strategic in building, changing, and enforcing their citizenship regimes: What is novel today is individuals acting as citizenship strategists (2018). Yet there are also case studies revealing how people do apply for a second citizenship when opportunity presents itself, not because of strategic reasons but rather because of the official recognition that a passport provides for people's identity claims (Pogonyi 2018; Naujoks 2013). We argue that these conditions of transnational connections and new legal possibilities of citizenship signal a need to look closely at the level of individual narratives, paying equal attention to strategic motivations and assertions of identity. In other words, there is a second, interrelated way in which national citizenship matters to transnationality: the symbolic recognition attributed to particular citizenship regimes across the world. When the groups we interviewed made claims about being cosmopolitan, multicultural, and transnational, they relied on the power of associations of "the American dream" across the world (Grewal 2005). As natural-born Americans emphasized their own dispositions of inclusiveness, multiculturalism, and hard work, they could make sense of their privileges across the world through individualized but very familiar discourses of what it means to be an American (Grewal 2005). Those who considered U.S. citizenship as insurance against global political risk did not necessarily imagine that the citizenships of other global economic powers like China or Russia would be able do the same thing. Those who sought U.S. citizenship for themselves or for their children also maintained that they could "become" American with U.S. citizenship. Some contrasted this with their experiences in European countries, where they may have experienced familiarity but always felt more like outcasts. Balibar conceptualizes this process for the case of European countries as a kind of apartheid, where immigrants are inside yet still separated from the "real" citizens (Balibar, 2004). For these interviewees, it was the very hope and perception that they could become Americans, that anybody could become an American, which gave U.S. citizenship a symbolic power and recognition distinct from others. In other words, the hierarchy of national citizenships and passports in a transnational terrain are constituted at the intersection of strategic values of geographic mobility, protection from political and economic risk, status and class mobility, and symbolic meanings associated with identity and cultural affinity claims. These are dynamic processes, too, shaped with individual practices and narratives, taking their cue from historical experiences and contemporary macropolitical events.
Our argument, therefore, is that we need to engage in discussions that go beyond the permeability of borders, as would be expected from an age of greater transnational mobility. We contend that we need to look at actual experiences, desires, and perceptions that unfold on the ground in response to macropolitical circumstances. Whereas the relevant contemporary debates in citizenship studies make assumptions about individuals' strategic and instrumental motivations against a backdrop of citizenship inequalities, we suggest that there is much to learn from delving into real life experiences. This way it becomes possible to trace the complex interactions between instrumental values and identity meanings associated with citizenship. Through the narratives of the three groups we studied, we refocus the multiplicity of loyalties, allegiances, and identifications that appear to challenge the power of national citizenship, juxtapose them with citizenship strategies they can deploy, and clarify the ways these involve anxiety-ridden, ambivalent, and sometimes even re-nationalizing processes.
National citizenship regimes matter in that they are valued and experienced unequally across borders. These values embody both symbolic significance and strategic thinking on the part of actors located in the Global South. Some citizenships are more likely to signify values such as modernity, multiculturalism, freedom, cosmopolitanism, and being associated with the West, all of which play crucial locally specific roles in identity negotiations. Some citizenships are more likely than others to enable seamless border-crossings, provide safe havens from risk, and offer global protection. They are also more likely to enable individuals to retain and even rise above their class and status positions across borders, building a diverse transnational community whose membership in one polity translates into specific privileges elsewhere (Ong 1999; Friedman 2000). These are processes we can discover precisely because we bring together narratives of three groups with diverse connections to U.S. citizenship, ranging from those who have it from birth to those who are naturalized to those whose non-U.S. parents obtained it for them in hopes of safer futures.
We show how U.S. citizenship can enable the middle and upper classes in Turkey (and possibly elsewhere in the developing world) to transgress the limits of their national citizenship and live as transnational citizens. Yet we need to emphasize that this book is not only a story about Turkey or people who live in Turkey. The United States continues to be the number one immigrant destination in the world, despite the recent rise of anti-immigrant rhetoric (Martin 2017). It is still the center of global cultural production, making numerous cityscapes, artifacts, and images more recognizable as "American" than those from elsewhere (Belmonte 2013; Grewal 2005; Kroes 2002). All of this is on top of a history of the American empire that has made its multilayered presence felt in not only Turkey but numerous locations around the world (Bender 2002 and 2006; Bright and Geyer 2002; McAlister 2001; Thelen 1999; Tyrell 2007). Thus, this is a book about the transnational meanings and values associated with American citizenship and their implications for how we need to refine our thinking of citizenship as an institution, status, and set of practices in the contemporary world.
We look at the ways in which the institution of U.S. citizenship becomes an expression of contextually specific struggles around status and recognition. We also show that U.S. citizenship enables natural-born Americans to become transnational and access privileges unlikely to be available to them inside the United States. U.S. citizenship, therefore, allows us to study individual experiences of social class in transnational spaces. Isin writes on the extent to which the history of imperial power and the institution of national citizenship are integral to one another. Discussing the problems of a historiography that draws a linear trajectory, he suggests that the age of empire has not ended just because we now have bounded nation-states and national citizens (Isin 2015). We follow this suggestion into a terrain that is beyond state intention and interstate relations. We argue that a fuller picture of hierarchical ordering of citizenships and their connections with unequal state powers become possible only if we trace their workings in people's imaginaries, practices, and experiences. This is indeed a new form of imperial citizenship, which responds to state-level processes without being completely subsumed by them. Meanings of U.S. citizenship proliferate, stabilize, and are destabilized as people create, strategize, and assert transnational links and subjectivities around it.
The Story of the Book
In the rest of the book, we follow these groups' narratives, taking up their experiences in separate chapters. Each chapter flows into the next as different actors reveal complex, overlapping motivations and experiences. We trace in their accounts the foundations for diverse identity claims and values attached to U.S. citizenship in Turkey.
In Chapter 1, we set the stage. We use a broad history of state-level relations between Turkey and the United States to construct a cultural history of evolving and diverse perceptions of America in Turkey, and the ways in which these have been part of contestations of hegemonic and alternative claims about "the essence" of the Turkish nation. We draw out the ways in which "the West" and America have become synonymous over time, with a significant impact on individuals' everyday strategies of distinction. We then focus on recent political developments, which reveal a major power shift at the state level, from the set of political actors who identify with early republican notions of Westernism, republicanism, and secular nationalism to those who define Turkishness more around religiosity and connections with the Ottoman past. We begin our portrayal of a political scene where the government has become more exclusionary and deprecating of those groups whose social status is partially derived from their identifications with the West and secularism, a story whose consecutive chapters unfold throughout the book. We also explain Turkey's economic boom of the last decade, which until recently was a magnet for many around the world. We situate the meanings and values attributed to U.S. citizenship in Turkey against this background, carefully emphasizing their diversity. This is a story that seeps into the following chapters as our interviewees narrate their experiences in Turkey and their citizenship statuses. Overall, Chapter 1 aims to develop a more substantial contextualization of the origins of the various groups under discussion, their subjectivities and their current positions in their current structural circumstances in both local and global terms.
Chapter 2 analyzes the process whereby "natural" citizens of Turkey give birth in the United States to obtain U.S. citizenship for their children. We show how this choice emerges at the intersection of the parents' fears of political risk in Turkey, familiarity with the U.S. context, and the ease with which the jus soli principle allows them to gain citizenship of a rich, liberal democracy for their children. This case reveals the meanings people who lack U.S. citizenship themselves attribute to it from afar and how they imagine what it could provide for their children who are going to grow up outside of the United States. These actors make strong claims of affinity with the West through their children, whose U.S. passports become a signifier of the kind of socialization to which the latter will be subjected. The transnational meaning of U.S. citizenship, in this sense, is the hope that it signifies for the next generation. Transnational imaginaries regarding the value of U.S. citizenship are also closely interlinked with experiences of Turkish citizenship. Painfully aware of the limited capacities that their primary (Turkish) citizenship has for providing options for protection and exit under unstable circumstances, these groups take precautions for their children by means of U.S. citizenship. It is highly valued because it provides transnational flexibility and exit routes in times of political anxiety. It is akin to an insurance mechanism because it is more readily obtainable than EU citizenship, and because the U.S. polity is expected to retain stability and offer a place for the children with which the families declare cultural affinity. We end this chapter by arguing how these parents' motivations and actions show that citizenship regimes can be differentiated on the basis of their ability to offer seamless exit from unsafe situations and transition to secure havens in times of political risk.
In Chapter 3 we shift gears from the imaginations and hopes of U.S. citizenship to actual U.S. citizens, who have moved in the opposite direction from these parents. We trace the experiences of natural born U.S. citizens, putting to the test the imaginaries of the parents for an unpredictable future. Their stories reveal unexpected advantages of the U.S. citizenship outside the United States. Whereas the parents imagine U.S. citizenship as a vehicle of safe passage to the United States in case of a political crisis in Turkey, these people have relocated to Turkey during their adulthood for reasons like education, limited employment opportunities in the United States, career trajectories, and marriage. For this group, their U.S. citizenship and assumptions in Turkey about American cultural upbringing give them distinction. They experience different combinations of upward mobility in Turkey in terms of the jobs they can access, the income they are able to generate, and the social groups they can join. Their stories also reveal intense negotiations of identity, between the national and the transnational, albeit of a different kind. For these groups, U.S. citizenship comes to signify simultaneously national pride and embarrassment because of connections between U.S. geopolitical power and their individual privileges in Turkey. Yet living outside of the United States also allows them to make claims about being a "special" kind of U.S. citizen, one that is more connected and politically more aware. The transnational value of U.S. citizenship for this group is the recognition of what their citizenship evokes and how it facilitates unique privileges in Turkey and wherever else they might have lived, in comparison to their previous lives and opportunities in the United States. Yet these are all complicated processes, as these individuals' ethnic and racial origins as well as gender and sexuality have differentiated impacts on their recognition as "Americans." We also delve into what this recognition means against the popularization of anti-American sentiments and discover a surprising wedge between individual recognition and macropolitical circumstances. This chapter discusses how national citizenship regimes are unequally valued to the extent that their symbolic connotations—often linked to historical power relations between states—translate into divergent class positions for individuals living outside their home countries.
Finally, in Chapter 4 we turn our lens on actors with Turkish citizenship who have lived for extended periods in the United States and have as a result obtained the green card or U.S. citizenship. Most of these people had already moved to Turkey at the time of the interviews, with the remainder planning to do so. This chapter continues the story of the unfolding political crisis in Turkey through the narratives of these groups. For the individuals who returned, the question of why they did so always looms on the horizon, impacting their experiences with the status of dual citizenship. The question of return and the anxieties around it reveal the different experiences between this group and the group in Chapter 3. Nevertheless, in these cases, U.S. citizenship also provides a way to negotiate identities outside the United States. It becomes an expression of membership in a transnational community that is Western-looking while they can still embrace expressions of Turkish patriotism and/or attachment to the cities where they currently live. These identity claims are also linked to what U.S. citizenship can facilitate outside the borders of the United States and what it can achieve in combination with Turkish citizenship within Turkey. When combined with Turkish citizenship, the U.S. passport allows these actors to escape economic crisis in the United States and carve out higher-status jobs in Turkey. It also makes possibility of circulation between the two countries a realistic one. The chapter concludes with the argument that national citizenship regimes matter in transnational spaces because of their unequal capacity to provide seamless mobility across borders and to lend credibility to individualized descriptions of identity, combined selectively from the local, national and the transnational.
We open our concluding chapter by first describing what has happened in Turkey since 2015, when we finished our interviews. We depict the growing authoritarianism and political unpredictability in the country, heightened anti-American rhetoric, coupled with erratic changes in visa regulations for Turkish citizens governing their (restricted) mobility outside of Turkey as well as into the United States. We discuss the implications of the Trump for imageries of rule of law and multiculturalism in the United States as well as the rising tensions between the Turkish and U.S. governments. We also follow the trajectories of some of our interviewees and the choices they have made under these shifting circumstances. Against this backdrop, we assert the need to think about the intersection of individual practices, experiences, and expectations of citizenship statuses in contexts shaped by unequal state-level relations and local political struggles of belonging and privilege. This focus has much to contribute, not only to understanding the variety of transnational meanings and values attributed to U.S. citizenship in Turkey, but also to studying the individualized cultural registers through which strategies are deployed and meanings drawn up with respect to the institution of citizenship.
In this concluding chapter, we also suggest a typology for understanding the persistent importance of national citizenship regimes and inequalities between them in transnational spaces. This typology rests on two dimensions, strategic values and symbolic identity-based meanings attributed to national citizenships. National citizenship status continues to matter in a world of growing transnational connections: It is still this official status that has huge impact on the degree to which people will be exposed to political or economic risks or be able to escape them; the degree to which they will be able to change locations flexibly; and what kind of class and status mobility they can reasonably expect outside their countries of origin. These are the basis for the strategic value of citizenship, which is almost always intertwined with the symbolic meaning of citizenship, the second dimension. People aspire to membership in a country because they assert cultural affinities with it, can make believable claims of belonging once they have the official status, and when they believe their passports can protect them against racism in larger transnational spaces. Overall, we argue that the narratives of these groups are indicative of the need to move beyond existing debates on the relationship between citizenship, transnational citizenship, and inequality. There is much potential in studying the emerging strategic and symbolic values attached to citizenship, beyond conventionally studied local opportunities and obligations, national allegiances, and the complications that migrations bring to these. With our book, we contribute to this quest by conceptualizing the transnational values and meanings of national citizenships. We underline the need for paying closer attention to personal biographies, to what actual people think, imagine, and practice in relation to their citizenship statuses in a world marked by multiple layers of unpredictability, risk, and anxiety.