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Making sense of citizenship and citizen identity in light of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) 2019: A qualitative study of micro-level citizenship processes among Indian citizens

Das, Dhruba
Citizenship literature often either concentrates on the macro-level aspects of citizenship or investigates the micro-level processes. This project bridges micro-level processes with the macro-level components of citizenship using Structural Symbolic Interactionism. Citizenship is more than just a formal membership bestowed upon us by the nation-state; it is also a claims-making process where individuals extend citizenship claims based on ethnic, racial, or other social identities. Using thirty semi-structured interviews with Indian citizens, this qualitative study of citizenship shows how the micro-level process of citizenship—i.e., making sense of citizenship, is guided by macro-level dimensions or layers of citizenship. Overall, this study makes a threefold contribution. First, it offers a blueprint for a holistic investigation of citizenship. Not only does it investigate how individuals make sense of citizenship and citizen identity, draw symbolic boundaries, and differentiate between citizens and non-citizens, but it shows how larger structures guide such processes. Second, it sheds light on the multi-dimensionality of citizenship. I argue that citizenship includes multiple layers, and each of its layers must be perceived as an arena where citizenship interacts with another structure. Not only are these layers dynamic, but they shape the symbolic boundaries of citizenship. Last, I argue that the micro-level claims-making process depends on these layers as the structural interactions activate specific definitions and restrict others. Thus, whether someone can deploy a symbol or definition to claim citizenship depends on structural interactions.