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Offshore Citizens


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Table of Contents

1. Limbo statuses and precarious citizenship; 2. Making the nation: citizens, 'guests' and ambiguous legal statuses; 3. Demographic growth, migrant policing, and naturalization as a 'national security' threat; 4. Permanently deportable: the formal and informal institutions of the Kafala system; 5. 'Ta'al Bachir' (come tomorrow): the politics of waiting for identity papers; 6. Identity regularization and passport outsourcing: turning minorities into foreigners; 7. Conclusion; 8. Methodological appendix; Bibliography; Index.

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This study of citizenship and migration policies in the Gulf shows how temporary residency can become a permanent citizenship status.

About the Author

Noora Lori is an Assistant Professor of International Relations at the Pardee School of Global Studies, Boston University. She was a scholar at the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies and received the 2014 Best Dissertation Award from the Migration and Citizenship section of the American Political Science Association.


'This pathbreaking book asks the critical yet curiously understudied question of how citizenship in Arab Gulf states is constructed - a question with great stakes given the benefits of nationality in the small, oil rich countries of the region. Lori identifies a new approach to dealing with domestic minorities while constructing national communities - the outsourcing of national membership.' Melani Cammett, Clarence Dillon Professor of International Affairs, Harvard University
'Offshore Citizens might also have been titled 'Kafka Comes to the Middle East'. We learn that, as in Kafka's parable 'Before the Law', many in the United Arab Emirates await their turn to enter the exalted status of citizenship but are denied, even though they wait dutifully their entire lives. Noora Anwar Lori tells the tale of the many 'permanent temporary' guest workers whose citizenship is 'outsourced' to the tiny Union of Comoros, which supplies them with passports although they have no connection to the country. These persons live in a permanent limbo in the UAE, even though they were born in the Emirates and have never known anywhere else. Surreal and disturbing, but all too real for those permanent non-Arab guest workers who live it. A fascinating study of the 'spectrum' of citizenship statuses in the region with the world's largest proportion of non-citizens.' John Torpey, City University of New York
'Original and thoughtful, Offshore Citizens explores why states postpone grants of citizenship and outsource national passports. Challenging established categories of inclusion/exclusion, member/stranger, and democratic/autocratic regimes, Noora Lori unsettles established binaries through a meticulous study of the policies adopted by the Gulf states toward minority resident populations.' Ayelet Shachar, Max-Planck-Institut zur Erforschung multireligioeser und multiethnischer Gesellschaften
'In short, this book is a remarkable piece of scholarship. It theorizes the question of precarious citizenship among settled groups and migrants that do not fit the historical narrative of postcolonial states. It shows how precarious citizenship evolved historically and how contemporary migration 'management' tools, such as the issuance of biometrical identification cards, compounds these individuals' precarious citizenship status. Most importantly perhaps, the book accounts for the disturbing effects that bureaucratic practices have on the lives of people in countries that have the means to integrate these people in their citizenship regimes but choose not to do so.' James Sater, International Migration Review
'This volume by Lori (Boston Univ.) is an outstanding display of erudition along several dimensions ... This is a necessary addition to any collection on international law and for researchers interested in Gulf politics.' S. R. Silverburg, Choice
'Lori's original empirical data and innovative concept formation make Offshore Citizens an important and welcome contribution to the burgeoning literature on citizenship and immigration policies in the Global South.' Kamal Sadiq, Perspectives on Politics
'Lori's work is of far-reaching relevance beyond its obvious interest to scholars - and indeed historians - of the Gulf ... With her book, Lori thus convincingly challenges the neat binary of citizens and aliens, highlighting the ambiguities and ambivalences that can exist within the grey area - or areas - between the two.' Thomas McGee, Statelessness and Citizenship Review

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