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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

2000, Vol. 3 No. 1 .


Challenge to the State: Immigration in Western Europe and the United States
Christian Joppke ed.

(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998)
360pp. Index. Bibl. Hb.: 40.00; ISBN 0-19-829229-5.



This book examines the effect of immigration, globalization, transnationalism and growing importance of human rights on sovereignty and citizenship in the EU and the United States.

Authors quote Yasemin Soysal's argument that migrants rights are rights of 'personhood' (p.25) implemented by the states and legitimated by discourse of human rights. But her assertion about European citizenship as postnational membership is a complex mixture realities and probabilities. Joppke asserts that 'European citizenship is subsidiary and complementary to, not substitutive of national membership (p. 29). Saskia Sassen and Rey Koslowski' reach different conclusions. Examining harmonisation of intra-European migration policy, Koslowski says, '..member states have ceded sovereignty with respect to the migration of EU nationals within the Union (p.167) and suggests that retention of sovereignty may be more symbolic than substantive (p.177). Saskia Sassen also says, 'we see the beginning of displacement of government functions on to a non-governmental or quasi governmental institutions (p.72). Gary Freeman, however argues that 'liberal states generally have more capacity to control migration than is typically recognised (p.93). In comparing US, Germany and Britain on asylum and sovereignty, Joppke shows clearly the liberal regime in the US and Germany have had to live with less restrictionist policy. Germany allowed near automatic entry to asylum seekers following Article 16 of the Basic Law that stipulated, 'Politically persecuted enjoy the right of asylum' (p.122). Now Germany has a restrictive regime through harmonisation of EU immigration policy, and as Joppke argues, Germany reasserts its sovereignty through EU harmonisation. According to his assessment, Britain provides the most striking case of 'unbending sovereignty' (p.130) and asserts that 'Britain is now known as one of Europe's most notorious human rights offenders' (p.131) for its discriminatory treatment of its own citizens and non-citizens alike.

Challenge to Citizenship section examines dynamics of citizenship and non-citizenship in relation to welfare in the US and the relationship between the Federal Government and the states which limit the power of the state. Miriam Feldbulm outlines reconfiguration of citizenship as the ties between the states transcend a national policy. Using Soysal's principle of personhood as a post-national norm, she suggests that the transnational loyalties will displace national citizenship in favour of EU Citizenship. Virginie Guiraudon argues that decision making by a small band of elites behind the closed door can best provide extension of rights to non-citizens. Adrian Favell's narrative on the rise of Muslim politics in Britain after Rushdie case is not unproblematic in his assertion that 'Muslims' cardinal sin was to question the sovereignty of the British Law when Kalim Siddiqui set up the Muslim Parliament. The absurdity of equating Muslim Parliament with the British National Parliament is patently obvious. Muslim Parliament emerged as a body that gave voice to hurt feelings of Muslims in Rushdie affair. Favell's contention that 'these events contributed to the growing tension between 'Islam and the West' (p.328) has to be examined, not in some locality like Bradford but in relation to revival of Islam in 1980s and its effects on Muslims everywhere. More importantly, his observations on British Europhobia and implications of devolution for minority groups in Britain merit careful attention.

Without pretending to provide any ready made answers for complex ways in which sovereignty and citizenship are likely to be affected by migration, transnationalism and globalisation, the book raises issues for the formation of policy that upholds the spirit of human rights and Soysal's vision of postnational membership which respects personhood in troubled humanity of our times.


Rohit Barot
University of Bristol




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