The illegitimacy of citizenship

[dropcap]A[/dropcap] crisis of citizenship is being violently implemented. Citizenship is being forged through a corpus of state legitimized and bureaucratically stamped documents. I am ordered to produce pieces of paper with  signatures of officials who will always remain  strangers to me, with seals pressed by hands that will never clasp mine in the warmth of a greeting, insignias that bear the stamp of an authority that has the power to make me recognizable to the surveillance and governmentality of the state. At the end of, or, in between impersonal official  statements which can be mechanically replicated on page after page, the whorls on my thumb traced in smudged purple dyed lines or the ink lines of my name shaped into a signature, makes a servile claim to my right to a liveable life on the patch of earth on which I am located at a point in time. I become a citizen when I become a name  in a list, a number in an identity card, a face stilled into a photograph by an indifferent camera, and a body inserted into a space that has been mapped into an address through an official cartography of inhabitations.

But I also belong to the soil that is mixed with the ashes of my ancestors, to the river that ripens into the rice that grows in my fields, to the streets that unravel the many maps of my city. I belong to the  people who neighbour me in the asymmetry of their different modes of being, I am linked into a community through the nervure of a complex pattern of social ties, I share  the sameness of our fleshed body, I mingle with them at the intersections of love or anger or conversation or silence and I struggle along with them through the daily routines and  demands of human existence. I become a member of multiple contingent communities in the darkness of the theatre hall, in the gathering of a political rally, in the festivities of a religious ceremony, in the audience of a cultural performance and the memorial for a revered leader of the people.

I travel along the familiar roads of my city and beyond it into new worlds and I am startled by the great variety of the world and the many possibilities of being in the world. I meet those who have come from beyond the boundaries of my familiar space and when they live alongside me they change the recognition of familiarity through which I live in my world. I will never be able to trace the journeys and settlements of my ancestors through time and space and I will never know of the travels that will be made by those born of me.

The power that marks out identities by violently classifying the interiority of faith and belief, the power that categorizes these identities into official recognitions of  citizenship and brutal denials of citizenship, is a monstrous power. The power that incarcerates those it has named as outsiders, in the limbo of not belonging to any human community, is depraved. The power that is blind to the tenuous, fragile mutability of all human communities, is dangerous. The power that is not open to the variety of embedded and embodied lives that constantly seep into each other at multiple sites of intersection, is dangerously blind. The power that does not recognize that communities are shaped and reshaped by the possibility of mobility in space and the inevitability of death in time, is  inimically stupid. When the technologies and institutions of power are placed in the service of a destructive enumeration and classification of people and the violent inflicting of citizenship,  then democracy has been violently dismembered and brutally maimed. Then we need to recall, recollect and speak about the ways in which we belong to a community, then we need to stand up for the community that sustains us as human beings and question the power that brutally perpetuates itself at the expense of destroying  living communities of human beings.