Disputed Citizenship

In some world settings disputes about who can claim citizenship, whether merely legal political citizenship or a deeper sense of belonging to the nation, is a direct cause of violence and political conflict. This session discusses several dramatic instances of recent conflict around Disputed Citizenship.

Event details

When: 1.30-3.00pm (AEDT), Friday 18th November 2022
Where: Ballarat Goods Shed


Professor Marko Pavlyshyn

Complexities of Belonging: Reflections on Citizenship and Identity in Ukraine

How, and to what extent, should a newly independent state endeavour to dismantle inherited colonial structures of political and cultural dominion? Where lies the demarcation between social and cultural customs naturalised by long colonial practice, and thus tolerable, and intolerable legacies of abusive imperial power? These questions have been differently addressed in the post-Soviet countries since 1991. In Ukraine, in the context of anxieties about the unextinguished ambitions of the former colonial hegemon, they have animated debate over the state’s role in shaping the identity of Ukrainian citizens. Among the matters in contention have been cultural and language policy, the status and cultural rights of minorities, and the acceptability of dual or diaspora citizenship. Researchers have observed in the course of Russia’s war on Ukraine since 2014 and its escalation in February 2022 a shift in the public understanding of “Ukrainianness” from possession of an array of cultural attributes toward a sense of participation in a Ukrainian polity united by attachment to a shared territory and a shared future. In this paper I reflect on what appear to be the salient features of this emergent experience of national belonging.

Marko Pavlyshyn is an emeritus professor of Ukrainian Studies at Monash University. He is the author of Ol’ha Kobylianska: Interpretations (Kharkiv, 2008), Canon and Iconostasis (Kyiv, 1997), of translations from the Ukrainian into English of Yuri Andrukhovych’s Recreations (Edmonton, 1998) and Yuri Izdryk’s Wozzeck (Edmonton, 2006), and of more than 100 chapters and articles, mainly on modern and contemporary Ukrainian literature, many applying postcolonial approaches to its analysis. He has edited and co-edited twelve scholarly collections, including, with Giovanna Brogi and Serhii Plokhy, Ukraine and Europe: Cultural Encounters and Negotiations (Toronto, 2017). In 2004-2018 he was the director of the Mykola Zerov Centre for Ukrainian Studies at Monash University, where at various times he also headed the Centre for European Studies and the School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics. Marko Pavlyshyn was elected a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities in 2002 and an International Member of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine in 2021.

Professor Monique Skidmore

The challenges of cyberwarfare to Myanmar’s dangerous ethnic tropes

The settled tropes of a center and its ‘ethnic’ peripheries is familiar to all Myanmar people and Myanmar scholars. This dangerous and lazy extension of the colonial and authoritarian mindset remains alive in scholarly, development, government and multilateral discourse and has penetrated the collective psyche of much of the country.

Ethnicity has been a rallying call and a targeting mechanism – for everything from the delivery of aid to attempted genocide. It has fostered xenophobia, hatred, fear, and racism and been elided with religion and with phenotypic traits such as darkness. Miscegenation was traditionally a challenge to colonial and military regimes of control through a taxonomy of peoples, but we see new challenges arising to strike a final stake through the heart of this dangerous discourse of division and exclusion.

This paper explores two faces of cyberwarfare in Myanmar. Firstly, I examine the great levelling of cyber authoritarianism surveillance and control upon populations which erases early racist differences under a collective category of the ruled. Secondly, I consider the emerging evidence of the cyber coalitions of resistance that resist the ongoing February 2021 military coup.

I argue that despite the ongoing imaginary of a federated future union of Myanmar, the ways in which resistance and authoritarianism are organised that make increasingly dangerous and irrelevant, and unlikely the inaccurate tropes around ethnicity, union, and federation in Myanmar. The location-free nature of cyber resistance, the levelling effect of cyber surveillance, and the new existence of issue-based coalitions that are gender, religion, and ethnicity blind demonstrate the need for more accurate analytical lenses to understand Myanmar’s likely trajectory.

Monique Skidmore is a political and medical anthropologist of Burma (Myanmar) who has provided international expert analysis for national and international media for over two decades. Monique began academic life as a tenured lecturer at the University of Melbourne and then as a senior postdoctoral research fellow in the Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peacekeeping Studies at the University of Notre Dame. After winning several Australia Research Council Grants, she returned to Australia to work as a research and Associate Dean Research at the Australian National University. She went on to hold executive leadership positions in Australian universities including Dean and Pro Vice-Chancellor International at the University of Canberra from 2008, Deputy Vice-Chancellor International and Vice-President of the University of Queensland from 2014, and Deputy Vice-Chancellor Global and Vice-President of the University of Tasmania in 2016. In 2021 she became a Research Professor in the Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation, Deakin University and a Board Member and the Director of the Australia Myanmar Institute.

Dr Yirga Gelaw Woldeyes

The violence of nation-building and ethnolinguistic nationalism in Ethiopia

From 1991 to the present, Ethiopia has been divided into ethnic zones where citizenship is possible only through belonging to a linguistic group that is made into a sovereign regional state by the constitution. Ethiopia faces ongoing civil war, ethnic violence and further ethnic-based nationalism, where linguistic groups who do not have regional states seek to define themselves as ‘states’ within but separate to the ‘nation’ of Ethiopia. This paper examines the genealogical roots of this phenomenon, and reflects on how this form of nationalism continues to have violent consequences for the majority of Ethiopians outside politics. Ethiopia is the only uncolonised African country whose state was not established by European colonialists. However, by the time other African countries became independent and started a nation building agenda, a new western educated class in Ethiopia mobilised the downfall of the monarchy. They utilised a Eurocentric conception of the ‘nation’ that required the invention of a national enemy against which political membership could be mobilised. This paper argues that by using western notions of the ‘nation-state’, nation-building in Ethiopia has become a process that mobilises ethnolinguistic identities against a perceived ethnic national enemy with tragic consequences to the majority.

Yirga Gelaw is a Senior Lecturer, multidisciplinary researcher and writer based at Curtin University’s Centre for Human Rights Education, Australia. Drawing from the history, philosophy and experiences of marginalised people and diverse communities, Yirga contributes critical insights for reimagining the future and addressing epistemic and racial injustices. He researches African experience and Ethiopian traditions and writes creatively on belonging and diasporic lives. He has won university and industry awards for his teaching, research, and creative writing. His publications include the sole authored book Native Colonialism: Education and the Economy of Violence Against Traditions in Ethiopia. (New Jersey: The Red Sea Press, 2017) and the co-edited book (with Offord, Fleay, Hartley and Chan) Activating Cultural and Social Change: The Pedagogies of Human Rights (London: Routledge, 2022).

Twitter: @YirgaGelaw

About the Symposium

Questions of citizenship and belonging have long featured in Australian public life. From the rights and citizenship of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples through to exclusionary immigration policies, from internment of ‘enemy aliens’ to citizenship controversies of the Australian parliament, from demands of loyalty from diaspora groups to cancelling the citizenship of terrorists, their widows and orphans.

Citizenship is both an externally protective and projective mechanism, and a marker of ‘who belongs’. Around the world, notions of citizenship are often divided between so called ‘civic’ and ‘ethnic’ principles. Australia’s own experience shows that forms of national belonging are more complex than this binary suggests.

The 53rd Annual Symposium will explore themes of loyalty and nationality, internationalism, mobility and how these interact with questions of participation, affiliation and the politics of ‘nativism’. Moving beyond legalistic approaches, it will imagine a new and unique Australian civilisational compact – a substantive kind of citizenship for a multicultural society with deep trans-national and diaspora connections and a reimagined polity negotiated with First Nations concepts and rights.

Acknowledgement of Country

The Australian Academy of the Humanities recognises Australia’s First Nations Peoples as the traditional owners and custodians of this land, and their continuous connection to country, community and culture.