In 1946, when France's Assemblée Nationale Constituante was debating articles on France's overseas empire for a new constitution, a deputy cited a precedent: in 212 the Roman Emperor Caracalla extended Roman citizenship to all male, non-slave subjects of the empire. The example, it was argued, showed that people could be citizens of an empire without giving up 'local civilizations'. This article explores different meanings of citizenship and rights in empires, emphasizing two different models - Roman and a Eurasian one - and focusing on the contrasting examples of imperial Russia, the USSR, and 20 th century France. The discussion moves beyond the common association of citizenship with the nation-state and rights with democracy. Building and sustaining an empire, we argue, entailed balancing the incorporation of diverse people into a political unit and the maintenance of distinction and hierarchy. That a 20 th century republic could look to a classical precedent suggests the continued importance of imperial imaginaries and structures; the polity was not characterized by a binary distinction between a core and a subordinate periphery but rather was a multiplex combination of different territories and people that could be governed differently. The article calls for recognition of the wide range of ways in which political belonging, cultural difference, and rights can be analyzed, envisioned, and understood.
|Translated title of the contribution||Empire, rights, and citizenship, 212 to 1946|
|State||Published - 2008|
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Social Sciences(all)