The role of citizenship and statehood in the average person’s life is often taken for granted. Abrahamian, opinions editor at Al Jazeera America, challenges such complacency in a sharp, insightful exposé of the world of the stateless. She contrasts those who hold multiple passports by virtue of economic privilege, as citizenship becomes a luxury good and a hedge against political instability, with people who have no citizenship, such as the Bidoon, who live in Gulf Arab states, notably Kuwait. Abrahamian demonstrates the intersection of these two groups by examining a peculiar concept—citizenship for sale—and how it may benefit both the ultrawealthy and the countries trying to figure out what to do with their stateless populations. For example, the Comoros, an island nation in the Indian Ocean, has offered to sell citizenship to Gulf Arab states to allow their Bidoon residents to emigrate abroad. Abrahamian draws from economic and political theory for a fascinating, eminently readable exploration of contemporary citizenship and concepts of statehood. Readers will be deeply intrigued by the connections she draws and the implications of the modern movement away from statehood and nationalism, and eager to learn more when this quick read is over. (Nov.)
A New York Times Book Review Editor's Choice
"Writing with pace and passion, Abrahamian, an opinion editor at Al Jazeera America, weaves together her narratives with considerable journalistic flair. She intertwines [her narratives with] the ancient idea of cosmopolitan citizenship and its idealistic modern advocates. She sees the growing market in citizenship as the corruption and commercialization of this idea by a global business elite."
Richard Bellamy, The New York Times Book Review
"A perceptive, brilliantly reported investigation into the ways in which the forces of globalization are fundamentally changing the conceptualization and practice of nationality. This is that rare thing: a book filled with news."
Joseph O'Neill, author of Netherland and The Dog
"Atossa Araxia Abrahamian is a 21st-century Diogenes of Canadian, Iranian,and Swiss citizenship who has written a sharp, compelling, and often humorous book about the evolution of citizenship and the rise of a new form of statelessness. As she contends in The Cosmopolites, if in the 21st century 'the nation is being called into question as a result of globalizing technology, trade and crisis, it makes perfect sense for our connection and allegiance to the nation to be challenged too.' A cosmopolite is a global citizen who manages to be 'of the world without belonging anywhere within it,' she writes, all the while exploring and challenging the parameters that determine who among us gets to be global." The Nation
"Can cosmopolitanism advance human rights and claim high-minded ideals, when muddled, exploitative politics often follow in its wake? Abrahamian's reporting is not a call to dispense altogether with the contradictions of the modern nation-state. Rather, it is a clearer demand for a better set of contradictions, which support the identities and participation of people who are now stateless living in societies that seek to expel them."
The New Republic
"It's an intriguing, thoroughly reported look at the evolution of nationality and citizenship, and how the latter is quickly becoming a marketable commodity to the world's well-heeled jet set, while remaining heartbreakingly out of reach for those who need it most."
"Abrahamian's meticulous and intricate examination excels, and not just in its focus on the capitalist middlemen...Instead, her story, like most modern tales of the global economy in the age of income inequality, vacillates between the haves and the have-nots, the 'one percent' and everyone else."
"A fiercely reported case study of the 'financialization' of citizenship and the burgeoning global business of buying and selling passports."
"Superb.... The Cosmopolites reveals the creative and flexible migration policies that materialize when there is political will." Jonathan Blake, Los Angeles Review of Books
"This fascinating and lucid bit of reportage investigates the birth of the citizenship industry, in which tax havens and micro-nations sell passports to Middle Eastern millionaires, stateless populations, and the new 'international' class which occupies a new world without boundaries or state-imposed limits."
"A sharp, insightful expose of the world of the stateless....a fascinating, eminently readable exploration of contemporary citizenship and concepts of statehood. Readers will be deeply intrigued by the connections she draws and the implications of the modern movement away from statehood and nationalism, and eager to learn more when this quick read is over."
"Abrahamian's fluently told, fast-paced story takes her around the world, into dark corners such as the passport industry ('You can never be too rich, too thin, or have too many passports') and refugee processing centers, and it ends on a dark note suggesting that anyone seeking a new country who doesn't arrive with a thick wallet is likely to be turned awayor worse. A slim but powerful book of great interest."
Over 2,500 years ago the ancient Greeks developed the concept of kosmopolíts or "citizen of the world." In her first book, Abrahamian (opinion editor, Al Jazeera America) examines the various iterations of this concept in the modern world. Her interest began through her experience of being raised in an international setting. She examines how citizenship is marketed to rich jet-setters, people making political statements and nations wanting to provide citizenship to other countries for their own "stateless minorities." This slim volume is an interesting overview of what has, since 2008, become a source of income for the countries involved in the trade. It is a fairly easy read with a number of endnotes and a list of titles for further reading. VERDICT This quick read about the new vision for the classic concept of world citizenship is recommended to readers interested in either modern global citizenship or niche economics and marketing used by some counties.—John Sandstrom, New Mexico State Univ. Lib., Las Cruces
Swiss-Canadian-Iranian journalist Abrahamian looks closely at modern internationality and the legal liminality that can accompany it. Well at home in the airports and diplomatic offices of the world, the author, an opinion editor at Al Jazeera America and editor at New Inquiry and Dissent, admits a "discomfort with the national ‘we.' " Yet, she continues, national identity gives a person legal standing in the world: to be a cosmopolite is not quite the same as being cosmopolitan, and to be free of the encumbrances of nationalism can sometimes mean being without a nation. Pico Iyer covered the freedom part of the equation in his similarly wide-ranging book The Global Soul (2000). Where Abrahamian diverges is in her unblinking look at the phenomenon of statelessness. Depriving them of citizenship allowed the Nazi regime to persecute German Jews in the first place, denying them what Hannah Arendt considered the overarching advantage of citizenship: "the right to have rights." Arendt pressed for the right of stateless people to have legal standing internationally, a question that is of immediate concern given the growing number of refugees in the world. "Fixing statelessness isn't technically very difficult," writes Abrahamian. "It can be solved with some basic organization and paperwork." Yet doing so requires political will that most nations seem to lack, unless it comes in the form of citizenship for sale, a specialty of certain islands around the world; or the creation of multitiered citizenship schemes that allow natives of, say, the Gulf emirates to withhold certain privileges from new arrivals. Abrahamian's fluently told, fast-paced story takes her around the world, into dark corners such as the passport industry ("You can never be too rich, too thin, or have too many passports") and refugee processing centers, and it ends on a dark note suggesting that anyone seeking a new country who doesn't arrive with a thick wallet is likely to be turned away—or worse. A slim but powerful book of great interest to students of international law and current events.