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Between postnationality and postcoloniality: Human rights and the rights of non-citizens in a 'cosmopolitan Europe'

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapter


This paper brings together the project of human rights and that of the European Union under examination vis-à-vis the rights of non-citizens, and in particular the rights of undocumented migrants. In so doing, it attempts to grasp the tension between the postnational articulations of membership, both as normative expectations and institutional construction, and the post/neocolonial condition as expressed in the politics of citizenship and migration in today’s Europe. I argue that the exclusion and exploitation of postcolonial migrants have both underpinned and betrayed the EU’s ambition to re-establish Europe as a leading ‘normative power’ committed to the value of human rights. When shifting the focus from EU citizenship and its reproduction of differential inclusion and essentialist cultural identity to migrant subjectivity, the paper engages with the emerging field of critical citizenship studies which sees migrant mobilisations as sites of contesting and enacting citizenship. However, it further argues that this emancipatory intent is continuously disrupted by the fact that the employment of the discourse of rights centred on performativity and universality often has to be mediated through the categories of race, religion, culture and the colonial legacy. Thus a critical cosmopolitanism needs to start with acknowledging, rather than masking, the paradoxes in itself.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDecolonizing Enlightenment : Transnational Justice, Human Rights and Democracy in a Postcolonial World
EditorsNikita Dhawan
PublisherBarbara Budrich Publishers
Publication dateApr 2014
ISBN (Print)9783847400561
ISBN (Electronic)9783847403142
StatePublished - Apr 2014
SeriesPolitik und Geschlecht

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