Race, Nation, Canada

The comments section below this linked op-ed on multiple citizenship nicely illustrates the suspicions many white Canadians still entertain towards multiple citizenship for immigrants. Given the Canadian reputation for tolerance among Americans, I always have an instinctive surprise when I read comments like this. But there you have it. I have never given much thought to it before moving here, but it really is shocking the ways in which citizenship that is chosen is regarded with suspicion, even though people born here can easily live abroad for their whole life and their Canadianness is never questioned (I am certain this is also the case in the United States–I just never identified as an immigrant there and so never really contemplated it).

I am reminded of Wallerstein and Balibar’s Race, Nation, Class which (among other things) argues that notions of “nation” and “culture” are rarely very far from “race” and “people” and, by extension, we might also say “blood and soil.” Perhaps the concept of citizenship itself is a concept hopelessly mired in 19th century racist nationalism. The problem, like most political concepts, is that is also does a lot of good. As the cliché goes for democracy, it’s an incredibly flawed system but the best we’ve got. At least until someone concocts some kind of governance system that works with open borders and shifting populations.