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Dimensions of citizenship among Mexican immigrants in Vancouver, Canada Rempel, Geoffrey Elliott Lee

Abstract

The beginning of the twenty-first century is a time of far-reaching global changes; these changes have tremendous implications for the meaning of citizenship. Increasing connections of all kinds across borders and between cultures demand the reevaluation of traditional understandings of the relationship of individuals to the state and to each other in the public sphere. This thesis uses the testimony of Mexican immigrants to Vancouver, Canada, (a largely unresearched group at the forefront of these global changes) to query their experiences of the meaning of citizenship. Semistructured interviews in English and Spanish were conducted with twenty-seven respondents. Three dimensions of citizenship were found to be particularly important to this group. First, these immigrants operate within the structure of neoliberal nation-building projects of both the Mexican and the Canadian states. Two examples of such biopolitical mobilization (the National Solidarity Program in Mexico, and the federal multicultural policy in Canada) are examined in detail. Second, citizenship for Mexican immigrants is transnational; it is characterized by multiple, simultaneous economic, social, and political involvements in both Mexico and Canada. However, the actual extent of such transnationalism was found to be rather more limited than much transnational literature suggests. Third, belonging to a community is a central element of citizenship; these immigrants were found not to form a single cohesive community, but rather multiple, dispersed communities split along lines of class and other identity axes. This research demonstrates the challenges and opportunities that increasingly common hybrid identities present for the meaning and function of citizenship, particularly for an ethnic minority immigrant group maintaining strong ties to their country of origin.

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