Skip to main content
Article thumbnail
Location of Repository

Designed to fail : a biopolitics of British Citizenship.

By Imogen Tyler

Abstract

Tracing a route through the recent 'ugly history' of British citizenship, this article advances two central claims. Firstly, British citizenship has been designed to fail specific groups and populations. Failure, it argues, is a design principle of British citizenship, in the most active and violent sense of the verb to design: to mark out, to indicate, to designate. Secondly, British citizenship is a biopolitics - a field of techniques and practices (legal, social, moral) through which populations are controlled and fashioned. This article begins with the 1981 Nationality Act and the violent conflicts between the police and black communities in Brixton that accompanied the passage of the Act through the British parliament. Employing Michel Foucault's concept of state racism, it argues that the 1981 Nationality Act marked a pivotal moment in the design of British citizenship and has operated as the template for a glut of subsequent nationality legislation that has shaped who can achieve citizenship. The central argument is that the existence of populations of failed citizens within Britain is not an accident of flawed design, but is foundational to British citizenship. For many 'national minorities' the lived realities of biopolitical citizenship stand in stark contradistinction to contemporary governmental accounts of citizenship that stress community cohesion, political participation, social responsibility, rights and pride in shared national belonging

Year: 2010
OAI identifier: oai:eprints.lancs.ac.uk:27153
Provided by: Lancaster E-Prints

Suggested articles

Citations

  1. (1973). [1948]. The Origins of Totalitarianism.
  2. (1981). 2 Biopolitics is understood here as the ‗explosion of numerous and diverse techniques for achieving the subjugation of bodies and the control of populations‘ (see Foucault,
  3. (1993). 4 `National minorities` is a term used by Hannah Arendt to describe precarious populations within a nation-state who risk disenfranchishment.
  4. (1950). 6 It was Marshall‘s pivotal ‗Citizenship and Social Class‘
  5. (2005). A Brief History of Neoliberalism Oxford
  6. (1981). Background - British racism.
  7. (2007). Border Security and Immigration: Our Deal for Delivery in 2008‘ [online]. Available from:
  8. (2008). Designing safe citizens. doi
  9. (2005). Governance Innovation and the Citizen: The Janus Face of Governance-beyond-the-State. doi
  10. (1998). Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life, trans. Daniel HellerRoazen.
  11. (2007). I am indebted to Weber‘s argument that citizenship designates some US citizens as normal, safe, and successful and others abnormal, unsafe, and temporarily failed (Weber,
  12. (1978). Immigration Interview. Granada Television, [online]. Available from: http://www.margaretthatcher.org/speeches/displaydocument.asp?docid=103485 [Accessed 1 April] Tyler, I.,
  13. (2008). Listen to our Cry. [online] Available at: http://www.ncadc.org.uk/archives/filed%20newszines/oldnewszines/Old%2051-100/Newszine93/Yarl'sWood.html [Accessed 1 April]
  14. (2004). Massive change.
  15. (2008). Mothers United in Yarl's Wood IRC.
  16. (1999). Out of Place: Englishness, Empire and the Locations of Identity.
  17. (2007). Practitioners‘ Association (IPLA), 2007.Submission to Lord Goldsmith for the Citizenship Review: The Different Categories of British Nationality.
  18. (2006). Rethinking Refugees: Beyond States of Emergency.
  19. (1942). Social Insurance and Allied Services. London, HMSO. Available from: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/bsp/hi/pdfs/19_07_05_beveridge.pdf Blitz, B.,
  20. (2003). Society must be defended: Lectures at the Collège de France 1975-1976. Translated David Macey.
  21. (1983). Thatcher's People: The British Nationality Act
  22. (2004). The Ethics and Politics of Asylum: Liberal Democracy and the Response to Refugees.
  23. (1936). The General Theory of Employment , Interest and Money.
  24. (1981). The History of Sexuality: Volume I. trans. Robert Hurley.
  25. (1982). The New Empire Within Britain. New Society, 417- 421 [online] Available from:
  26. (2008). The New Front Line: Security in a changing world ippr
  27. (2008). The Path for Citizenship: Next Steps in Reforming the Immigration System. Border and Immigration Agency Communications Directorate.
  28. (2006). Violent Intersections: The Role of Prisons and Welfare in the Exclusion of Mexican Immigrant Women‘ UCSD.
  29. (2007). Who Sings the Nation State.

To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.