The Rights Claims of the Sans-papiers: Transgressing the borders of citizenship


In The Origins of Totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt criticises the “abstract nakedness” of human rights and the dangers of statelessness. She invokes the “right to have rights” as the only universal right, identifying the fundamental aporia of human rights: despite the claim to universality, rights are only ever granted to those belonging to particular political communities. Through the case of the French Sans-papiers, this paper addresses the question of statelessness by situating theories of “acts of citizenship” within a broader theoretical understanding of law. The aim is to develop a model of citizenship, where status and practice are seen as mutual conditions of (im)possibility. The practice of making rights-claims reveals the constitutive tension inherent to citizenship, where the universal rights from which its sovereignty is derived and its laws flow, cannot be contained within its borders. The figure of the migrant, as citizen to-come, marks the mutual implication of ‘transgression’ and ‘belonging’.

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DOI: 10.14324/111.2057-2212.073

How to Cite

Rees, P., (2017) “The Rights Claims of the Sans-papiers: Transgressing the borders of citizenship”, Tropos 4(1).







Peter Rees (Goldsmiths, University of London, UK)




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