The limits of strategic citizenship

Affective engagements with Russian passports in the context of migration from Tajikistan

in Social Anthropology/Anthropologie sociale
Elena Borisova The University of Manchester

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Based on extensive ethnographic fieldwork, this article analyses the recent phenomenon of the mass search for Russian citizenship by Tajikistani nationals and critically engages with the emerging concept of strategic citizenship. Bringing together the literature on strategic citizenship and affective documents, it argues that the notion of strategy is incomplete and can be misleading when used to analyse citizenship seeking. Drawing an opposition between ‘rational’ and ‘emotional’ aspects of citizenship, there is a danger in looking at strategising through the assumptions grounded in formal rationality placing a rational individual seeking to ‘maximise utility’ through their citizenship choices at the centre of analysis. My ethnography shows that grounded in the local systems of value, practices of citizenship‐seeking go far beyond the calculative logic of cost–benefit analysis and should be theorised in the context of family projects and subsequent ideas about social becoming. It also shows that acts of taking citizenship emerge as affective responses of people trying to figure out what is the ‘rational’ thing to do in the context of uncertainty and instability of labour markets, mobility regulations and documentary regimes, affects being distributed not only in persons and their relations but in and around documents.

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