Colorblind nationalism and the limits of citizenship

Lecture by Ming Hsu Chen Professor of Law Director of the Race, Immigration, Citizenship and Equality Program, UC Hastings

Moderator: Ayelet Shachar, R.F. Harney Chair in Ethnic, Immigration and Pluralism Studies

Policymakers and lawyers posit formal citizenship as the key to inclusion. Rather than presume formal citizenship will necessarily promote equality, this talk examines the relationship between citizenship, racial equality, and nationalism. It asks: What role does formal citizenship play in excluding noncitizens and Asian, Muslim, and Latinx Americans racialized as foreigners? What effects does it have on the meaning of being American as a non- White citizen? The talk argues that commitments to colorblind equality and democratic self-governance of the nation stand in contradiction to aspirations to protect all persons within the nation. Consequently, individual rights designed to remedy racial inequality will not level citizenship inequalities. The institutional aspects of citizenship require reforms to the structural aspects of citizenship inequality as well – especially political inequality. This new approach requires rethinking the relationship between citizenship and the nation and how noncitizens can be involved in politics.

Ming Hsu Chen is a Professor of Law and Faculty-Director of the Race, Immigration, Citizenship, and Equality Program. She teaches courses in Constitutional Law, Legislation and Administrative Regulation, Citizenship, and Immigration. Professor Chen brings an interdisciplinary perspective to the study of race, immigration, and the administrative state. Her scholarship is published in leading law reviews and social science journals. She is author of Pursuing Citizenship in the Enforcement Era (Stanford University Press 2020), on which she gave a TEDx Talk in 2020. She serves as Co-Editor for the Immigration Prof blog (@immprof) and the executive committee for the AALS Immigration Section and the Law and Society Association’s Citizenship and Migration Section. Professor Chen was previously a professor of law, political science, and ethnic studies at the University of Colorado Boulder where she founded the Immigration and Citizenship Law Program.

Access the video recording of this lecture here.

Co-sponsored by the Asian Institute, Munk School