The Scramble for Citizens shows us how three states (Italy, Spain and Argentina) have competed and struggled to claim a portion of the population that has moved between its borders over the past two centuries.
In a flexible, clear, and concise way, David Cook-Martin formulates a historical reconstruction of the strategies adopted by the states in order to create and maintain links with a mobile population, while allowing us to know the tactics that people have developed to respond to these competitive dynamics. The adoption of a top-down perspective – through the study of official documents – and a bottom-up prospective – through his ethnographic work in three contexts – makes his work original, highly valuable and well-balanced, since the author gives voice to both: individuals and their agencies and nation-states and their agendas.
The book is organized into five chapters. In the first one, the professor of the Grinnell College proposes a historical overview of the conformation and situation of the states in the nineteenth and first half of the twentieth century. He shows how Italy during the unification process was a state without a nation, how Spain (the oldest nation-state of the three studied) was in a moment of political struggles after the loss of colonies and the 1898 debacle, and how Argentina was a state without a population which developed the idea that migration of white men would bring progress and modernity (though there was never a consensus among members of the Argentine political elites on who would bring that progress: if white Europeans from the North or from the South). By using demographic sources, studying the institutionalization processes and the migration policies developed, David Cook-Martin illustrates how, in the mass migration period, the direction of migration flows was from North to South, which were the differences between the Spanish and Italian migratory paths (their different rates of female migration and return) and the first political reactions in the European countries of emigration (particularly strong during the advert of conservative nationalism). Moreover, he compares the naturalization policies developed by Argentina and Brazil in the late nineteenth century, showing that the first country opted for «softer» policies and laws by not proposing an «automatic naturalization» for migrants, as the second did, but choosing to make citizens of the children of migrants and using other (more indirect) measures in the educational system and at the associative level.
Chapter two moves forward in time and focuses on the connections between «the revealing threesome» after the Se-cond World War. While the mass migration period was coming to an end, Argentina and the two European states signed bi-lateral treaties, the Argentine executive promoted selective immigration policies (preferably white South Europeans) as the international political and economical scenario shifted. In the 70’s and 80’s the reversal in migration flows began, Spain and Italy started to receive migrants and they commenced to develop and to explicitly state their ethnic preferences for the descendants of their emigrants in their immigration and na-tionality laws respectively. Meanwhile, Argentina became a country of migrations (recognized by law in 2004).
In chapter three the ethnographic section begins. As a re-sult of a field work that includes approximately sixty interviews in all three countries, the author describes how current procedures to obtain Spanish and Italian citizenship are experienced by the descendants of migrants. The particularities of what he has defined as «paper industry» are detailed, and the tactical and emotional reasons employed by individuals to justify their desire to get dual citizenship are analyzed. Thereon the current debate around the value of citizenship arises through the discourses generated by authors such as Spiro, Shachar and Joppke. David Cook-Martin concludes that the paradox of the increasing (Shachar) and the decreasing (Spiro) importance of citizenship is not as such, as the value of citizenship depends on the frame of reference that is taken: it declines if one thinks about the state jurisdiction and it raises when one takes into consideration the status and opportunities. On the other side, the very title of this chapter, «Grandma’s passport», can be read as provocative in gender terms. Even though there have been political and legal measures that permit the descendants of migrants to have access to European citizenship by jus sanguinis, the author points out that it is also worth noticing that the transmission of citizenship to the offspring has been conditioned by gender bias until the second-half of the twentieth century. For instance, the capacity of migrant women – especially the ones with Italian origin – to maintain and transmit their citizenship to their children was impeded or strongly restricted as their migration was seen as secondary and as part of a family project.
In chapter four, the debate about citizenship continues and David Cook-Martin discusses how nowadays citizenship has three characteristics: it is flexible, expansive, and valued dif-ferently. He proposes a new concept, «dissimilation», as a process of differentiation that reconfigures the meaning of citizenship. He explores the implications that this process has, on the one hand, on the workplace of two Spanish localities which had developed ethnic affinity policies toward descend-ants of emigrants and, on the other hand, on the question of extraterritorial vote exercised by the descendants of Italians living in Argentina. This chapter collects and develops previ-ous published studies of the author.
In the last chapter, «Citizenship in an Integrating World», the author supports an international political field framework, instead of conventional nationalist or post-national perspec-tives on citizenship studies. He finds similarities between transnational perspective and international political field framework and suggests the need for further researches on citizenship, belongings, identities, allegiances, and legal affiliations with a long-term standpoint and a multilevel approach. Precisely in line with this, the development of future analysis that take into consideration the ethnic affinity policies developed in different Italian regions (such as Lombardy, Friu-li-Venezia-Giulia or Veneto), as well as the political implica-tions of the vote of Spanish-Argentine dual citizens who reside in Argentina, could be advocated.
Recommended and praised by Mark Choate and Christian Joppke, the book The Scramble for Citizens is definitely an innovative and valuable contribution. It offers a rich multidisciplinary approach (historical, political, sociological and anthropological) essential to understanding the contemporary meaning of citizenship.
Ana Irene Rovetta Cortés