The unbearable cleverness of algorithmic citizenship

Costica Dumbrava | 14 March 2018

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Adam: Have you watched the news?

Eve: Oh! Poor children…

Adam: Imagine, all three of them had genetic mutations that would have prevented them from living worthy lives.

Eve: Lucky fat guy!

Adam: Well, good that the trolley was connected to the Central Unit. Who else would have been able to tell?

Eve: Yet, poor children!

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Citizenship Forecast: Partly Cloudy with Chances of Algorithms

Costica Dumbrava |Contribution to GLOBALCIT Forum: Cloud Communities: The Dawn of Global Citizenship? | 2 March 2018
cyber_aTechnologies such as Blockchain could allow people to create virtual communities based on shared interests and sustained by instantaneous consent, beyond the reach of nosy governments and regardless of national borders. By widening access to rights, expanding political voice and creating more secure and diverse identities, digital citizenship could address current challenges related to the imperfect attribution of status and rights (statelessness, disenfranchisement), widespread political apathy among citizens and artificial divisions created by national borders. To paraphrase the text of a famous cartoon: ‘on the Internet nobody knows you are a foreigner’.  Continue reading

Good datazens: New questions about technologies of good citizenship

datazensCostica Dumbrava | Technologies of collecting, sharing and analysing information have become central to contemporary policies of migration, border management and citizenship. In Europe and elsewhere, the establishment and gradual expansion of information databases, together with the deployment of a complex operational infrastructure for data collection, information sharing and risk analysis, plays an increasing role in managing migration and in determining access to key membership rights (entry, asylum, stay and freedom of movement). Continue reading

European information systems in the area of justice and home affairs

Costica Dumbrava |Published in: European information systems in the area of justice and home affairs,  European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS)

cyber_aHigh levels of irregular migration and the increase in transnational terrorist activities have pushed the EU to take concerted measures to strengthen its external borders and to enhance internal security. The revision and development of information systems for border management and law enforcement has been a key aspect of this response. Continue reading

Imagined genetic membership

Costica Dumbrava|Published in: Citizenship and Technology, Oxford Handbook of Citizenship

windows-787486_960_720The genetic revolution triggered by the discovery of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and bolstered by the recent mapping of all human genes (the Human Genome Project) has raised hopes about treating diseases, improving life, and even defeating death. However, the rapid development of genetic technologies also prompted concerns about the ‘geneticization’ of social life,[1] as human behaviour and social interactions are increasingly viewed through the lens of genetics. The worry is that population genomics studies will contribute to legitimizing and ‘naturalizing’ inequality and to the designation of new vulnerable groups based on arbitrary patterns and statistical correlations.[2] Continue reading

Dimensions of national reproduction


Costica Dumbrava | Published in: Reproducing the nation: reproduction, citizenship and ethno-demographic survival in post-communist Romania. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies

Controlling populations has become central to the political rationality of the modern state [1]. Post-war demographic interventionism has been largely disconnected from its earlier eugenicist goal of ‘improving the inborn qualities of a race’ [2] and steered towards the provision of positive, non-coercive welfare incentives [3]. Certain ‘crypto-eugenic’ features persisted, however, particularly in the global crusade to promote family planning as a means to counteract global overpopulation [4]. While remaining diverse and driven by different goals, such as legitimising political power, attesting ideological superiority (communist/capitalist), and promoting social modernisation, post-war population policies were generally conceived of as ‘a driver of economic development and nation-building’ [5]. Continue reading

Ethnic un-mixing in Eastern Europe?


Costica Dumbrava | Published in Introduction: Citizenship in Post-communist Eastern Europe, Central and Eastern European Migration Review

pexels-photo-262488After 1990 most Eastern European countries acted as ‘nationalising states’ (Brubaker 1996), seeking to secure the control of the core ethnic majority over state institutions and over the official definition of the nation. Citizenship policies have been used to ensure the unity of the nation within and across state borders (Pogonyi, Kovács and Körtvélyesi 2010). Whereas the explicit exclusion from citizenship based on ethnic grounds was prohibited by international norms, which most of these countries were forced to accept as a condition for European and transatlantic integration, indirect exclusion based on seemingly legitimate grounds was still possible. For example, Estonia and Latvia effectively denaturalised large proportions of their populations by reinstating their pre-Soviet citizenship laws and thus excluding from citizenship all Soviet-era immigrants and their descendants (Gelazis 2000). Continue reading

Anticipatory minority rights for majorities turning into minorities

Costica Dumbrava | Published in Verfassungsblog

Concerns about national, cultural and demographic preservation have become increasingly salient in the age of migrations and globalisation. Liav Orgad fittingly points to recent political reactions to the influx of refugees in Europe and to broader trends towards relinking citizenship and migration policies with concerns about national identity and cultural integration. He is right to complain about the reluctance among political theorists to engage systematically with these developments. I fully agree with Orgad that ignoring these issues is both “theoretically wrong” and “politically unwise”. However, I disagree that majorities have special majority rights that can be defended on the same normative basis as minority rights. I argue that if a current majority group is worried about its rights, it should genuinely support minority rights in anticipation of its future minority status. Continue reading

Welcome to E-stonia! E-residence and Citizenship in an Electronic Republic

Costica Dumbrava | Published in: EUDO Citizenship Blog, European University Institute

estonia-eresidenceIn 2014 Estonia launched an e-residence scheme through which non-resident foreigners could obtain an Estonian digital identity card. The digital card allows people to access a series of digital services such as enabling them to create and use electronic signatures, launch and manage companies, do online banking, etc. The procedure for obtaining the card is quite simple. Apart from providing several standard items such as application form, national ID, and personal photo, the applicants must pay a fee (€50 in 2014) and submit a written explanation “concerning the intention to use the digital ID and the circumstance of its use”. If granted, the digital card will be issued within 15 days. The policy rationale for the Estonian e-residency card is economic. The emphasis is on encouraging entrepreneurship and attracting business by removing administrative barriers as well as bypassing migration regulations. By aiming to attract 10 million e-Estonians by 2025 in a country of 1.3 million citizens, the government seeks to boost Estonia’s competitiveness on the global market. This adds to other Estonian business friendly measures such as tax-free for profit reinvestment and championing digital services. Notwithstanding the economic merits of the e-residence scheme, it is worth exploring its implications for citizenship. Is e-residence a membership status? Could e-residence trigger claims of membership as physical residence usually does? Continue reading

Don’t put the baby in the dirty bathwater! A Rejoinder

forum_jus_sanguiniCostica Dumbrava |Published in: EUDO Citizenship Forum, European University Institute

This debate on citizenship and assisted reproduction technologies has been a fascinating one and has succeeded in unravelling some of the major issues about the past, present and future of ius sanguinis citizenship. I was delighted to see that many of the contributors shared my concerns about the failings of the current system of transmission of citizenship from parent to child. I learned a great deal from reading the various reactions to my deliberately provocative propositions. With these concluding remarks, I use the privilege of the last word to engage with several key points emerging from the debate and to clarify and, as much as possible, elaborate my position. However, I am hopeful that this debate does not finish here and I look forward to continuing through other ventures. Continue reading

Bloodlines and Belonging: Time to Abandon Ius Sanguinis?

reprodCostica Dumbrava | Published in: EUDO Citizenship Forum, European University Institute

The transmission of citizenship status from parents to children is a widespread modern practice that offers certain practical and normative advantages. It is relatively easy to distribute legal status to children according to parents’ citizenship, especially in the context of high mobility where the links between persons and their birthplace are becoming increasingly strained. Granting citizenship status to children of citizens may also be desirable as a way of avoiding statelessness, acknowledging special family links and fostering political links between children and the political community of their parents. These apparent advantages of ius sanguinis citizenship are, however, outweighed by a series of problems. Continue reading

The Facebook test of Romanian citizenship

Costica Dumbrava | Published in: EUDO Citizenship Blog, European University Institute

roflagthumbsThe next day after acquiring Romanian citizenship, Irina Tarasiuc – a singer from the Republic of Moldova – wrote on the social network Facebook: “For me the Romanian passport only stands for a visa, and not for citizenship. It is just an instrument for being mobile. I am Moldovan.” Tarasiuc acquired Romanian citizenship through a facilitated procedure that concerns former citizens (and descendants) who lost Romanian citizenship on reasons independent of their will. Her comment triggered a series of heated reactions on social media and in press; e.g. the Facebook group Irina Tarasiuc fara “viza”! [Irina Tarasiuc without “visa”!]. A number of formal requests to strip the singer of Romanian citizenship were submitted to the National Authority for Citizenship. As reported by the newspaper Gandul, the National Authority for Citizenship acknowledged these requests and began a formal procedure in this respect. Continue reading

Rolling back history: The Romanian policy of restoration of citizenship to former citizens

Romania and EUCostica Dumbrava | Published in: Citizenship in Southeast Europe, University of Edinburgh

After the fall of the communist regime, Romania adopted legal provisions regarding the facilitated re-acquisition of citizenship by former citizens and their descendants. According to the 1991 citizenship law, former citizens who “have had their citizenship withdrawn against their will or for other reasons not imputably to them” could reacquire Romanian citizenship without having to renounce other citizenship(s) or take up residence in the country. These provisions aimed at restoring Romanian citizenship particularly to former citizens and their descendants who inhabited the territories lost by Romania in 1940, namely Bessarabia, now the Republic of Moldova, Northern Bukovina and Southern Bessarabia, now part of Ukraine. This policy has attracted important criticism from various domestic and external stakeholders, including possible beneficiaries, governments of neighbouring countries and European politicians. Overtly passionate arguments and a search for sensationalism seem to dominate the debates about the restoration of Romanian citizenship, thus obscuring the complex purposes and implications of the policy. In this short piece, I point out various justifications of this policy and underline several of its major implications. Continue reading