In a recent work on denationalisation, the legal scholar Audrey Macklin announced that “after decades in exile, banishment is back”. Over the last decade, as new laws allowing individuals to be stripped of citizenship have sprung up across Western states, many others have also analogised denationalization to this hitherto discarded medieval punishment. My aim here is to explain why banishment disappeared from modern societies so as to understand better the character of its contemporary “revival”. A wealth of historical work on practice of banishment has appeared in recent years. But these studies tend to focus on the use of the practice during specific historical periods. Here, I use this diverse scholarship to assemble a unique picture of the development of banishment over the longue durée. I suggest that while banishment proved itself compatible with varied ways of conceptualising citizenship and societal purposes across the ancient, medieval and early modern worlds, the rise of territorial state and nationalised conceptions of membership in the nineteenth century undermined the punishment. Modern denationalisation, I argue, revives banishment but only in a highly modified and constrained form that, paradoxically, denies to the state the formal right to expel its own members as a punishment.
Taylor & Francis