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Taking the growing use of deportation by many states, including the UK and the USA, as its point of departure, this article examines the implications of deportation for how citizenship is understood and conceptualised in liberal states. We follow scholars such as Walters (2002, Citizenship studies, 6 (2), 265–292) and Nicholas De Genova (2010, The deportation regime: sovereignty, space and freedom of movement. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 33–65) in seeing deportation as a practice that is ‘constitutive of citizenship’, one that reaffirms the formal and normative boundaries of membership in an international system of nominally independent states. However, we draw on the UK to show that, as a particularly definitive and symbolically resonant way of dividing citizens from (putative) strangers, deportation is liable to generate conflicts amongst citizens and between citizens and the state over the question of who is part of the normative community of members. Such conflict is, we show, a key and everyday feature of the many local anti-deportation campaigns that currently operate in support of individuals and families facing expulsion in liberal states. Although often used by governmental elites as a way to reaffirm the shared significance of citizenship, deportation, we suggest, may serve to highlight just how divided and confused modern societies are in how they conceptualise both who is a member and who has the right to judge who belongs.

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Journal article


Taylor & Francis

Publication Date



15 (5)


547 - 563