SOAS University of London

Centre for Migration and Diaspora Studies

Birthplace, Bloodline and Beyond: How 'Liberian Citizenship' Is Currently Constructed in Liberia and Abroad

Dr Robtel Pailey (Oxford, IMI)

Date: 19 October 2016Time: 5:00 PM

Finishes: 19 October 2016Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings Room: G52

Type of Event: Seminar

As a 21st century post-war, emigrant-sending country, Liberia reflects global citizenship norms while simultaneously departing from them, and this unique positioning offers new opportunities to theorise citizenship across spatial and temporal landscapes. In this article, I examine ‘Liberian citizenship’ construction through a historical prism, arguing that as Liberia transformed from a country of immigration to one of emigration, so too did conceptualisations of citizenship—moving from passive, identity-based citizenship emphasising rights and entitlements to more active, practice-based citizenship privileging duties and responsibilities. Given the dynamic trends in citizenship configuration across the globe and particularly in Africa, this article fills gaps in the growing body of literature on citizenship and participation in emigrant-sending countries by contributing to wider debates about how identities, practices and relations between people transform in the aftermath of violent conflict. Empirical evidence presented is based on multi-sited fieldwork conducted in 2012 and 2013 with 202 Liberians in urban centres in West Africa, North America and Europe.

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Dr Robtel Pailey Birthplace, Bloodline and Beyond: How 'Liberian Citizenship' Is Currently Constructed in Liberia and Abroad

About the speaker

Robtel Neajai Pailey is a Liberian academic, activist and author with over a decade of combined professional experiences in Africa, Europe and North America. Her core areas of research expertise include migration, citizenship, diasporas, transnationalism, development, conflict, post-war recovery, governance, and the political economy of aid, trade and remittances. She has conducted multi-sited fieldwork in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Denmark, Ghana, Liberia, Niger, Sierra Leone, Somaliland, the UK and US. She has published in edited book volumes and academic journals including Citizenship Studies, The Liberian Studies Journal and Humanitas. Robtel is also the author of Gbagba, an anti-corruption children’s book published by One Moore Book in 2013 to critical acclaim and subsequently placed on the list of supplemental readers for 3rd to 5th graders in Liberia. Her doctoral thesis, entitled ‘The Love of Liberty Divided Us Here? Factors Leading to the Introduction and Postponement in Passage of Liberia’s Dual Citizenship Bill’, is a transnational study of constructions and practices of Liberian citizenship across space and time and their myriad implications for development. Robtel currently serves as a senior researcher at the University of Oxford’s International Migration Institute (IMI).

Organiser: Centre for Migration and Diaspora Studies

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