Conceptualizing Indigenous Citizenship: equal, differentiated, or shared citizenship?

by Vitikainen, Annamari, Associate Professor PDJ/UiT

 This paper considers some of the recent conceptualizations of indigenous citizenship as equal, differentiated, and shared citizenship. It draws from the now common understanding of indigenous citizenship as “citizenship as shared fate”, and aims to show how this understanding of shared citizenship may inform other elements of citizenship – namely, those connected to equal legal rights and to citizen participation.

The concept of “citizenship as shared fate” aims to capture the idea of indigenous people and the state’s majority population (thenceforth: national majority) as living in complex, historically formed, interdependent relations that tie their fates together. As opposed to the shared identity theories of citizenship, the understanding of citizenship in terms of shared fate sees the indigenous people and the national majority as sharing a common bond, while keeping their own distinctive identities. While the citizenship as shared fate has been developed to counter the more rigid and homogenizing understandings of citizenship as shared identity, its normative implications extend beyond the psychological (identity-based) realm of citizenship. From the point of view of political power, for example, citizenship as shared fate has provided grounds for different types of shared-rule institutions, as the interdependency of the two groups is seen to create a need also for power sharing institutions.

Apart from its normative effects on political institutions, the understanding of citizenship in terms of shared fate may also have effects on the other dimensions of citizenship, including legal and participatory elements of citizenship. These two elements of citizenship have often been understood differently: While the formal legal citizenship rights are often viewed as distinctively equal (that is, uniform), the quest for equal (now, effectively equal) public participation is often viewed as also requiring differentiated treatment or differentiated group rights. In this paper, I aim to map out some of the ways in which the understanding of indigenous citizenship in terms of shared fate may affect these common understandings of legal and participatory aspects of citizenship, by diversifying the common object to which the equal legal rights and the effective means of participation are supposed to apply.

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