Diversity Management

Divide to rule? Federal Innovation (and its lack) in South Asia

Divide to rule? Federal Innovation (and its lack) in South Asia


Ethnofederalism is too readily dismissed as a solution for accommodating territorially concentrated minorities within a state. This contribution demonstrates that although there are real concerns when these groups are not included within central decision making institutions or have their autonomy threatened by the centre, territorial autonomy for these groups increases rather than decreases their affinity with the central state. It is therefore a solution that should not be dismissed out of hand, although care needs to be taken when groups are intermixed and non-territorial autonomy may be necessary in addition.


Most of what we now know as South Asia has always been governed through the concession of territorial autonomy. This was as true under the British Raj as it was under the Mughals. The area was too religiously, linguistically and territorially diverse for any other solution to have been adopted. In the formal constitutional negotiations in the early twentieth century, federalism was formally adopted as part of the Government of India Acts of 1919 and 1935. Federalism was adopted after independence in the successor states of India and Pakistan, although not without contestation, particularly concerning the boundaries of the federal units, the language(s) that the federation would operate in, the provinces’ representation in governing institutions as well as the powers that they would receive.

This short contribution focuses on the boundaries of the federal units, of the creation of what is known in the federal literature as ‘ethnofederalism’ when the boundaries of at least one of the units of the federation corresponds to those of the group within it (Hale 2004, 167). The boundaries of the units of both India and Pakistan at independence bore little correspondence to the various groups that lived within those units.  Before independence, demands had been made for the redrawing of provincial boundaries around group identities. This had been achieved in some cases, such as Sindh and Orissa, but many decisions were deferred until after independence.

Federal Solutions after Independence

After independence however, both India and Pakistan’s new leaders were reticent to undermine national unity through recognising ‘subnational’ identities. This was partially the result of the violence of partition, but both Nehru and Jinnah had favoured a centralised state before independence. Nehru favoured the model of centralised planning, while in Pakistan, the recognition of regionally concentrated language groups potentially undermined the unity of the Muslim homeland. Both leaders were worried that ethnofederalism would lead to the weakening of the centre, and potentially, the Balkanisation of their states. They shared this in common with other critics of ‘ethnofederal’ solutions (see Anderson 2014 for a discussion of these).

Despite their leaders’ common concerns, India and Pakistan diverged in their constitutional solutions for their diversity. India, after initially recognising the rights of its multilingual provinces to choose their own languages, allowed for the territorial reorganisation of the country into more homogeneous units. The central Congress leadership did so under protest, after elements within the Congress Party vociferously protested against their leaders’ failure to countenance the redrawing of the political map. The internal borders of India were redrawn in 1956 along de facto linguistic lines, although the States Reorganisation Commission recommended a balanced approach between language, economic viability and administrative convenience. This process of ‘right sizing’ (Callaghy, O’Leary et al. 2001), has continued, in India with other tranches of reorganisations in the 1960s, 1970s and 2000s. Most of the later reorganisations were undertaken along non-linguistic lines, for example the tribal recognition of the 1970s or the caste or development narrative of the states created in the 2000s (Tillin 2013). The process continues, with the creation of the 29th state of the Union – Telangana – in 2014. It is unlikely to be the last.

In Pakistan, a state with a much weaker political leadership after partition, the protracted constitutional negotiations finally (in 1956) came up with a federal formula that reorganised the territorial boundaries of the country. The internal reorganisation was in a different manner to that of India however, and merged all the units and princely states of the western wing of Pakistan into one province: West Pakistan. The so-called One Unit Plan was a device to counterbalance the demographic dominance of its Eastern wing: renamed East Pakistan. Both provinces received equal weighting in the National Assembly, despite the majority of the population (55 percent) of Pakistan residing in the eastern wing.  This constitutional arrangement only lasted two years, with martial law declared by Ayub Khan in 1958. In 1970, his successor, Yahya Khan nullified the One Unit Plan resulting in the restoration of the three western provinces (albeit with their boundaries altered to include the princely states), and the creation of a new one, Baluchistan). The restoration of democracy in Pakistan precipitated its breakup, after the leaders of the western wing refused to recognise the democratic mandate of the politicians of the eastern wing. After the secession of Bangladesh in 1971, although the constitution of Pakistan was rewritten, the opportunity was not taken to reorganise the political map and Pakistan’s federation continued with only four provinces. In 2009 the area of Gilgit Baltistan was given semi-provincial status but has yet to be fully integrated as a fifth province of Pakistan, with representation in the National Assembly.


The legacies of the original decisions were profound.  In the case of India its willingness to continually reorganise its internal boundaries accommodated many groups and enhanced the representativeness of the Indian state. It has also accommodated other demands for linguistic recognition. Thus, not only were provinces (then states) allowed to choose the language(s) that they operated in, the Indian state retained English as an official language in addition to that of Hindi.  This was essential, as many of the states in the south and the northeast of the country did not speak Hindi (spoken by only 30 to 40 percent of the population) and resented the assumption that it was the ‘national’ language of the country. This accommodative framework, far from leading to the Balkanisation of India, ensured that multiple identities were encouraged to develop.  Evidence for this can be found by reading Moreno surveys on the allegiance of Indians living in different areas of India to their national or regional identity, or a combination of both. Although there are differences between regions, with the South and the East more likely to report feeling ‘regional’ than those in the North or West, there is a clear majority in all regions for feeling either more national than regional or equally national and regional. The inclusion of Indians from all over India in core central institutions, including that of the cabinet has also promoted this unity (Jayal 2006).

National versus Regional Identity in India







national and regional


regional and less national





North 41 7 20 5 10 17
East 26 19 15 13 17 10
North-East 20 7 32 9 15 17
West 42 7 27 5 10 10
South 23 22 15 20 13 7
India 32 12 21 10 12 13

Data taken from the State of Democracy in South Asia Survey (2008).


Of course, there are areas of India, particularly in its non-Hindu peripheries, where it has only managed to maintain its territorial integrity through the use of extreme force. There are several reasons for this. First, although India reorganised its units along ostensibly linguistic lines, almost half of the states of India retained significant heterogeneity. In those cases the locally dominant group felt threatened – as witnessed in Assam, Nagaland and Punjab – often leading to the violent targeting of minorities within the units. Second, where democracy or effective autonomy has been undermined, as in the case of Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir and most of the North-eastern states where state governments have been regularly dismissed, tensions with the centre have increased (Adeney 2007). It is notable that in Kashmir, where electoral manipulation was commonplace, insurgency did not develop until the late 1980s, after the rigging of the 1987 election. The securitisation of the response from the centre through the use of mechanisms such as the Armed Forces Special Powers Act also increased conflict. Although ten people lost their lives at the hands of police bullets in the Patidar protests in 2015 in Gujarat, the situation is incomparable to the use of pellet guns in Kashmir in 2016 (Adeney 2017). Within six months 100 people were estimated to have been killed and 6000 injured. Therefore, violent conflict cannot be divorced from the fact that these states have seen their effective autonomy being reduced.


In contrast, the unwillingness to make compromises over language alienated many groups from the Pakistani state.  This included Bengalis whose language was not recognised as State Language on par with Urdu until 1954. It was only belatedly accorded this recognition as a quid pro quo for giving up its demand for a majority of seats (to which they were entitled on the basis of their demographic majority) in the National Assembly. Language policy also alienated other groups within Pakistan, notably Sindhis. It was only after the constitutional redrafting in 1973 that provinces in Pakistan were able to choose to operate in a language other than Urdu. This alienation was compounded by exclusion from the core institutions of the state. Bengalis, Sindhis and Balochis all suffered from underrepresentation in institutions such as the army and the bureaucracy (Adeney 2009). In addition, their provinces suffered from a lack of investment, or, in the case of East Pakistan, under-development, as the resources of the East were extracted to finance the development of the West, particularly that of Punjab province.

National versus Regional Identity in Pakistan







national & regional


regional & less national





Urdu 60 8 9 4 16 3
Hindko 51 19 7 9 11 3
Punjabi 47 17 12 4 15 5
Pushto 33 16 17 5 22 7
Seraiki 32 10 13 10 29 6
Sindhi 23 11 8 9 36 14
Balochi 18 18 16 3 17 28
Pakistan 40 14 12 6 20 8

Data taken from the State of Democracy in South Asia Survey (2008).


The refusal to redraw provincial boundaries ensured that Pakistan’s federation exited with a very low number of provinces. This has not only exacerbated conflict between provinces (e.g. the tension between East and West Pakistan) but also meant that the larger provinces in terms of population – East Pakistan before its secession in 1971 and Punjab after 1971 – threatened the other provinces by their demographic majority. In the case of the Punjab, its domination was compounded by the over representation of Punjabis (or sections of Punjabis) in the core institutions of state such as the army and the bureaucracy. As Henry Hale has argued, ‘ethnofederal states are more likely to collapse when they contain a core ethnic region – a single federal region that enjoys dramatic superiority in population’ (2004, 166).  Given that many of the units of the western wing were linguistically heterogeneous, the basis for a reorganisation of provinces along linguistic lines exists – although it must be conceded that parties supporting particular reorganisations (such as those agitating for a Seraiki province (out of Punjab) or a Hindko speaking province (out of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa)) do not receive much electoral support.  In addition, any reorganisation of provinces would have to face up to the thorny issue of the city of Karachi, and demands for it to be separated from the province of Sindh, which would be explosive.

Lessons for Other Federations

Federal (re)design continues apace in the region and elsewhere. In the South Asia region, federal discussions continue in Myanmar and Nepal.  The case of India demonstrates that demands for “ethnic” provinces, such as in the Seraiki region of Pakistan and in the Madhesi regions of Nepal are likely to increase rather than decrease affinity with the central state.  It also prescribes that these territories should be made as homogeneous as possible.  The states of India that have continued to experience violent conflict after territorial reorganisation along ‘ethnic’ lines have been those in which sizeable pockets of diversity remain e.g. Nagaland and Assam. Where such diversity remains, non-territorial power sharing is necessary in addition to territorial models (Bhattacharyya, Suan Hausing et al. 2017).

However, this comes with a caveat: such autonomy should be part of a wider accommodation of groups within central power structures. Access to central power is important and Pakistan’s failure to include all of its provinces within central power structures has undermined the affinity of many of its groups to the states. In states such as neighbouring Myanmar and Nepal it is important not to pursue a majoritarian-led democratisation. A truly representative democratisation is vital for federations to accommodate territorially concentrated groups successfully.



Adeney, K. (2007). Federalism and ethnic conflict regulation in India and Pakistan. Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan,: xviii, 238 p.

Adeney, K. (2009). “The limitations of non-consociational federalism – the example of Pakistan.” Ethnopolitics 8(1): 87-106.

Adeney, K. (2017). “Does ethnofederalism explain the success of Indian federalism?” India Review 16(1): 125-148.

Anderson, L. (2014). “Ethnofederalism: The Worst Form of Institutional Arrangement…?” International Security 39(1): 165-204.

Bhattacharyya, H., et al. (2017). “Indian federalism at the crossroads: Limits of the territorial management of ethnic conflict.” India Review 16(1): 149-178.

Callaghy, T. M., et al. (2001). Rightsizing the state: the politics of moving borders. New York, Oxford University Press.

Hale, H. (2004). “Divided We Stand: Institutional Sources of Ethnofederal State Survival and Collapse.” World Politics 56(2): 165-193.

Jayal, N. (2006). Representing India: Ethnic Diversity and the Governance of Public Institutions, Palgrave Macmillan.

SDSA (2008). State of Democracy in South Asia. New Delhi, Oxford University Press.

Tillin, L. (2013). Remapping India: new states and their political origins. London, Hurst.


Further Reading

Adeney, K. (2007). Federalism and ethnic conflict regulation in India and Pakistan. Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan,:xviii, 238 p.

Adeney, K. (2017). “Does ethnofederalism explain the success of Indian federalism?” India Review 16(1): 125-148.

Anderson, L. (2014). “Ethnofederalism: The Worst Form of Institutional Arrangement…?” International Security 39(1): 165-204.

Jayal, N. (2006). Representing India: Ethnic Diversity and the Governance of Public Institutions, Palgrave Macmillan.

Tillin, L. (2013). Remapping India: new states and their political origins. London, Hurst.


Posted by Katharine Adeney in Case studies, Diversity management, Federalism and conflict, 0 comments
The Politics of Ethnically Diverse Cities: Why Should We Care?

The Politics of Ethnically Diverse Cities: Why Should We Care?


Ethnic diversity is a quintessentially urban attribute. Because of this, city governments are called to make decisions about the daily management of diversity, often in ways that contradict or even openly challenge state-level agendas. Thus, cities are not to be treated as simply a lower level of government: they are central actors in the multi-level governance of diversity and in the negotiation of inter-ethnic relations. This contribution reviews examples of city-level diversity policies and discusses some of the contradictions of urban multiculturalism. In doing so, it makes an argument for the need to pay more attention to cities in the study of ethnically diverse societies.


Much of the focus of minority studies is on state-level approaches and solutions to ethno-cultural divisions. Regions with high concentrations of minority populations have also attracted significant attention. However, while the nation-state obviously remains a crucial setting for the development of inter-ethnic arrangements (and conflicts), the city has emerged as a primary “site for generating, managing, negotiating and contesting cultural and political identities” (Uitermark, Rossi and Van Houtum, 2005: 622). The urban concentration of ethnic minorities in many countries has made diversity the quintessential city attribute. In cities around the world, ethnic and cultural diversity are growing in increasingly complex combinations, as migration-driven diversity interacts with pre-existing patterns of ethnic, cultural, and social diversity (Vertovec 2015).

This has direct political consequences. First of all, concentration and proximity force all sorts of inter-ethnic encounters, fostering the development of daily practices of urban coexistence (Amin and Thrift, 2002). Secondly, diverse cities have to respond to different demands for the distribution of resources and accommodation of different cultural expressions, so that city administrations are constantly called in to make decisions on the daily management of diversity. Moreover, minority urban concentration also creates the conditions for the emergence of minority grassroots initiatives and organisations, and makes it easier for minorities that are otherwise marginalised in state-level politics to achieve representation (and sometimes positions of power) in city administrations (Back and Solomos, 1992: 346; Bird, 2004: 182). As a result, cities have come to be a central setting for the negotiation of inter-ethnic relations and for the development of on-the-ground practices of ethnic inclusion and exclusion.

The Two Faces of the Diverse City

Diverse cities call to mind two different – and in many ways opposite – images. On the one hand, diverse cities can be seen as laboratories for a new post-national society. Because urban life forces diverse people to live side by side and share spaces (public transport, pavements, shops, neighbourhoods etc.), the city is often seen as “the most promising site for the negotiation of ethnic identities” (Uitermark, Rossi and Van Houtum, 2005: 623). Indeed, although the overall framing of ethnic relations occurs at state level, much of the actual “negotiation of difference” happens at the local (most often urban) level through everyday, “banal” encounters (Amin 2002). The expectation that cities function as laboratories for new modes of inter-ethnic coexistence is more or less loosely based on the “contact hypothesis” of inter-group relations. Originally developed by Allport (1954), this maintains that, under the right conditions, contact among ethnic groups reduces prejudice and breeds inter-ethnic understanding.[1] This expectation is also inscribed in the EU Common Basic Principles for Immigrant Integration, which state that “[integration] is a process that takes place primarily at the local level” and “[f]requent interaction between immigrants and Member State citizens is a fundamental mechanism for integration” (Basic Principle no. 7, A Common Agenda for Integration, COM [2005] 389 final).[2]  Following this view, city administrations are expected to devise new policies to facilitate positive encounters and foster peaceful inter-ethnic living.

On the other hand, cities are also associated with ethnic and racial segregation, in the forms of the banlieue, the ghetto, and the ethnoracial tensions and insecurities these call to mind. According to this less rosy view of diverse cities, the inequalities and divisions that exist in society are embodied (and potentially amplified) in urban settings (e.g. Wacquant 1996). Unequal access to economic, social and political rights has deep effects on how different groups experience the city and on the kind of inter-ethnic encounters that are more likely to occur (Smith 1989). This ties in with widespread discourses of fear about the city that have been in circulation as long as there have been cities (Body-Gendrot and Martiniello, 2000: 2) and have recently come to prominence with US President Trump’s remarks about supposed no-go zones in European cities. Therefore, rather than (only) sites of positive encounter, cities are also potential sites of division and conflict.

Governing the Diverse City: Some Examples

For the reasons sketched above, city governments find themselves at the coalface of diversity politics. Their role cannot be reduced to the mere implementation of state policies. Rather, they are key (and relatively autonomous) players in the multilevel governance of inter-ethnic integration (Gebhardt 2014). As city administrations have to deal with the day-to-day (and often mundane) governing of diversity, they tend to take a more pragmatic approach compared to the state level, where often highly symbolically charged discussions of identity and culture prevail (Jørgensen 2012). In addition to this, city administrations offer an alternative (and often more accessible) platform for minority representatives to gain political office. The rise of minority representatives to positions of power in cities has obvious symbolic and visibility effects. According to studies focused on the US and – more marginally – Europe, it might also have concrete effects on city minority policies and, consequently, on minorities’ welfare and social integration (Mladenka 1989; Browning Marshall and Tabb 1990; Back and Solomos 1992; Garbaye 2005).

Of course different cities have taken different approaches to diversity (proactive or responsive, innovative or state-led), and some cities have been openly antagonistic towards their non-majority residents (Varsanyi, 2008; Ambrosini, 2013). Nevertheless, expectations remain high that cities might hold the solution to the issues and uncertainties of how to live (and prosper) with diversity. This is evidenced, for instance, by the emergence of a number of trans-national networks of multicultural cities, which aim to share good practices in devising city-level diversity policies. The EU, UNESCO, and the Council of Europe all support such networks, which include hundreds of cities throughout the world.[3]

So, are these expectations justified? Some examples can illustrate what proactive cities can do to shape their own inter-ethnic politics beyond, and sometimes against, state-level approaches. First of all, cities can collect comprehensive data (often lacking at state-level) as a starting point to understanding the needs of diverse communities, create awareness on the potential effects of policies on specific groups, and inform policymaking. This is the case, for instance, of Thunder Bay (Canada)’s Diversity in Policing Project. Awareness of minority-specific barriers to accessing local services can prompt cities to adapt the ways in which they promote and deliver such services. Efforts of some Swedish, British and Dutch cities to mainstream non-discrimination and inclusion in the provision of their services are an example of this (Gebhardt 2014). As city administrations are often the biggest local employer, they can also develop strategies to recruit diverse staff. Urban development and housing can also be managed in ways that are more or less sensitive to inter-ethnic needs (for a typology of city approaches on this, see Wood [2009]).

While city minority policies can be fragmentary and responsive, some city authorities have developed programmatic charters to spell out their guiding principles on diversity and inter-cultural integration – such as Potsdam’s New Tolerance Edict, and Montreal’s Declaration for Cultural Diversity, both drafted through extensive consultations with local residents. Some cities have also established dedicated diversity agencies, departments, or posts, which are tasked with coordinating city efforts on non-discrimination and minority inclusion. An example of this is Barcelona’s Agency for Civil Rights and Non-Discrimination, which also provides services to help its non-citizen residents navigate the complex path to access state-level rights and resources. Moreover, city funding can be made available to support minority organisations and to provide specific services to members of minority groups – such as for example state language training or adult education targeted to socio-economically marginalised groups. Finally, cities can compensate for minorities’ political underrepresentation by promoting minority participation in city politics through ad hoc consultations, regular inclusion of minority organisations in some aspects of decision-making, or institutionalised minority advisory councils (as in Amsterdam from 1985 until the early 2000s, or in several Italian cities through the “Consulta dei Migranti”). These councils can be tokenistic but can also provide an alternative route for excluded voices to influence local policies.

In short, cities cannot change the formal bestowing of citizenship to their non-citizen residents (a prerogative of the state) and the formal rights of their citizen-minorities are also determined at state level. However, by providing access to services and routes for political participation to their non-majority residents and by creating spaces for the development of city-based, post-national identities, cities can de facto redesign the practice of citizenship from the bottom up (Gebhardt, 2016).

Conclusion: Diverse Cities vs. the Nation-State?

After several European leaders have announced the failure of multiculturalism and, more recently, nationalistic and nativist discourses have seen a resurgence in the politics of many democracies, the role of cities in the multilevel governance of ethnic diversity has become even more important. In some cases local governments have been the first line of enforcement of restrictive and exclusive policies (Ambrosini 2013). More often, tasked with the routine governing of diversity, cities have remained pragmatic, de facto implementing local versions of multicultural policies under different names (Ambrosini and Boccagni 2015). More than that, some cities have responded to state-led exclusive pressures with open resistance. The US Sanctuary Cities movement against federal restrictive immigration policies and the city of Munich’s resistance against the German Government’s directive for healthcare providers to denounce irregular migrants (Gebhardt, 2016: 851) are illustrations of this. Therefore, also under the double strain of growing nationalism and decreasing budgets, cities have shown the potential to carve out some autonomous space as potential bastions of diversity.[4]

However, cities’ inclusive potential is not without contradictions. Cities often display more extreme inequalities than their country as a whole (United Nations, 2015), and minorities (both with and without citizenship) persistently find themselves among the most socio-economic disadvantaged (FRA, 2012). As a result, many European cities are experiencing rising housing segregation along socio-economic and ethnic lines (Tammaru et al. 2015). This has drawn the critique that cities market themselves as proudly diverse but in fact cannot or would not tackle the underlying, persistent inequalities that hinder minority social and political inclusion (Bridge and Watson 2002; MacLeavy 2008).

To conclude, any study of ethnic and diversity politics must take into account its multi-level nature. The potential for cities to develop alternatives to nation-states’ nativist tendencies as well as the contradictions of urban diversity policies and practices cannot be ignored. All the more so since city life is now the norm for most of humanity. In 2014 the UN calculated that 54 per cent of the world’s population lives in urban areas, a proportion that is expected to rise over the next decades.[5]  As cities are caught between the normativity of nation-state frameworks and the reality of dealing with daily, “banal” diversity, their responses will be key to determining the future of our increasingly diverse societies.



Allport, G. W. (1954) The Nature of Prejudice. Cambridge, MA: Perseus Books.

Ambrosini, M. (2013) ‘“We are against a multi-ethnic society”: Policies of exclusion at the urban level in Italy’, Ethnic and Racial Studies, 36(1), pp. 136–155.

Ambrosini, M. and Boccagni, P. (2015) ‘Urban Multiculturalism beyond the “Backlash”: New Discourses and Different Practices in Immigrant Policies across European Cities’, Journal of Intercultural Studies, 36(1), pp. 35–53.

Amin, A. (2002) ‘Ethnicity and the multicultural city: Living with diversity’, Environment and Planning A, 34(6), pp. 959–980.

Amin, A. and Thrift, N. (2002) ‘Cities and ethnicities’, Ethnicities, 2(3), pp. 291–230.

Back, L. and Solomos, J. (1992) ‘Black politics and social change in Birmingham, UK: An analysis of recent trends’, Ethnic and Racial Studies, 15(3), pp. 327–351.

Bird, K. (2004) ‘Obstacles to ethnic minority representation in local government in Canada’, Our Diverse Cities, 1(1), pp. 182–186.

Body-Gendrot, S. and Martiniello, M. (eds) (2000) Minorities in European Cities. The Dynamics of Social Integration and Social Exclusion at the Neighbourhood Level. Basingstoke: Macmillan.

Bridge, G. and Watson, S. (2002) ‘Lest power be forgotten: Networks, division and difference in the city’, Sociological Review, 50(4), pp. 505–524.

Browning, R. P., Marshall, D. R. and Tabb, D. H. (eds) (1990) Racial politics in American cities. New York: Longman.

FRA (2012) Fundamental rights: Challenges and achievements in 2011. Annual Report. Vienna: FRA – European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights.

Garbaye, R. (2005) Getting into local power: The politics of ethnic minorities in British and French cities. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers.

Gebhardt, D. (2014) Challenges in the Multilevel Governance of Immigrant Integration in Europe. Migration Policy Institute.

Gebhardt, D. (2016) ‘Re-thinking urban citizenship for immigrants from a policy perspective: The case of Barcelona’, Citizenship Studies, 20(6–7), pp. 846–866.

Herrschel, T. (2014) Cities, State and Globalisation. London: Routledge.

Jørgensen, M. B. (2012) ‘The diverging logics of integration policy making at national and city level’, International Migration Review, 46(1), pp. 244–278.

MacLeavy, J. (2008) ‘Managing Diversity? “Community Cohesion” and its Limits to Neoliberal Urban Policy’, Geography Compass, 2(2), pp. 538–558.

Mladenka, K. R. (1989) ‘Blacks and Hispanics in Urban Politics’, American Political Science Review, 83(1), pp. 165–191.

Smith, S. J. (1989) The Politics of ‘Race’ and Residence. Citizenship, Segregation and White Supremacy in Britain. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Stephens, A. C. (2013) The Persistence of Nationalism: From Imagined Communities to Urban Encounters. London: Routledge.

Tammaru, T., Marcińczak, S., Van Ham, M. and Musterd, S. (eds) (2015) Socio-Economic Segregation in European Capital Cities: East Meets West. Oxon: Routledge.

Uitermark, J., Rossi, U. and Van Houtum, H. (2005) ‘Reinventing Multiculturalism: Urban Citizenship and the Negotiation of Ethnic Diversity in Amsterdam’, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 29(3), pp. 622–640.

United Nations (2015) ‘Inclusive Cities’, HABITAT III Issue Papers, 1.

Varsanyi, M. W. (2008) ‘Immigration Policing through the Backdoor: City Ordinances, the “Right to the City”, and the Exclusion of Undocumented Day Laborers’, Urban Geography, 29(1), pp. 29–52.

Vertovec, S. (ed.) (2015) Diversities Old and New. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Van der Waal, J., De Koster, W. and Achterberg, P. (2013) ‘Ethnic segregation and radical right-wing voting in Dutch cities’, Urban Affairs Review.

Wacquant, L. (1996) ‘The Rise of Advanced Marginality: Notes on its Nature and Implications’, Acta Sociologica, 39, pp. 122–139.

Wood, P. (ed.) (2009) Intercultural Cities: Towards a model for intercultural integration. Council of Europe.

Zukin, S., Kasinitz, P. and Chen, X. (2016) Global Cities, Local Streets: Everyday Diversity from New York to Shanghai. London: Routledge.


Further Reading

Tassilo Herrschel (2014) Cities, State and Globalisation. London: Routledge.

Angharad C. Stephens (2013) The Persistence of Nationalism: From Imagined Communities to Urban Encounters. London: Routledge.

Tiit Tammaru, et al. (eds) (2015) Socio-Economic Segregation in European Capital Cities: East Meets West. Oxon: Routledge.

Sharon Zukin, Philip Kasinitz, and Xiangming Chen (2016) Global Cities, Local Streets: Everyday Diversity from New York to Shanghai. London: Routledge.

[1] For recent studies that confirm and refine Allport’s contact hypothesis, see for example Bohman (2013) and Van deer Waal et al (Zukin, Kasinitz and Chen, 2016).

[2] The Agenda can be accessed here: http://www.consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cms_data/docs/pressdata/en/jha/82745.pdf

[3] [3] Information on Eurocities’ Integrating Cities Process can be accessed here: http://www.integratingcities.eu/. For UNESCO’s International Coalition of Inclusive and Sustainable Cities and its regional organisations see http://www.unesco.org/new/en/social-and-human-sciences/themes/fight-against-discrimination/coalition-of-cities/. For the Council of Europe’s Intercultural Cities Programme see http://www.coe.int/en/web/interculturalcities/home.

[4] Interestingly, right-wing populist discourses push back on this by pitching the “true” (rural) heartland against the liberal, multicultural, “out-of-touch” city.

[5] The UN report on urbanisation found that not only the number and size of megalopolis is increasing, but also small and medium-size cities are steadily growing in size: https://esa.un.org/Unpd/Wup/Publications/

Posted by Licia Cianetti in Diversity management, 0 comments
‘The whole is other than the sum of its parts’: Cases of Centrifugal Citizenship

‘The whole is other than the sum of its parts’: Cases of Centrifugal Citizenship


This piece looks at what happens to citizenship when multilevel polities fall apart. Introducing the notion of ‘centrifugal citizenship’ to describe such cases, it uses the experience of the former Yugoslav republics to show all the possible consequences for individuals from the loss of status and the associated rights. The last section of the piece briefly contextualises such centrifugal citizenship in the debates related to the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union.



Citizenship is a structured relationship between an individual and their polity, be it a city, sub-state entity, state, or a supranational organisation (Miller 2000).  It entails reciprocity of rights and obligations. Citizens ensure the legitimacy and intergenerational continuity of the polity. They also sustain its day-to-day functioning by paying taxes and deciding on its political future. In return, they receive protection inside and outside of its borders and a bundle of socio-political

rights, including the right to vote and welfare protection. Against this background, the objective of this contribution is to look at how citizenship issues play out in disintegrating multilevel polities. The experience of the former Yugoslav republics offers insights helpful for understanding the debates related to the United Kingdom’s (UK) departure from the European Union (EU). Both in the domain of the status and of the rights of citizenship, the relationship between the polities that were once in a ‘citizenship constellation’ defines the rules for inclusion and exclusion.

Citizenship in Multilevel Polities

Citizenship is particularly complex in multilevel polities as it regulates the position of individuals in two or more overlapping political communities. Rainer Bauböck (2010: 848) has described such a circumstance as a ‘citizenship constellation’. A ‘citizenship constellation’, can either be horizontal (individuals linked to two or more polities through migration) or vertical  (in states formed by subnational polities, such as federations, confederations, unions of states; or in supranational polities established by states, including the European Union, the Union of South American Nations). In vertical ‘citizenship constellations’, matters of status and rights are determined by the relationship between the encompassing polity (e.g., the EU) and its constituent parts (e.g., Member States).

This structure opens up avenues for the individual to navigate in the new political space crafted out of rights and obligations beyond the borders of his or her ‘original’ polity. That is, while ‘the whole’ exists, it is ‘other than the sum of its parts’. Not greater, but different in nature. As the Gestalt psychologists from whom this phrase originates argued, the relationship between the ‘whole’ and its ‘parts’ is binary and concentric. On the one hand, the composition of the parts determines how we will see and experience the whole; on the other hand, the way in which the whole is seen will determine the interpretation of its constituent parts. As a consequence, individuals are at the centre of political structures containing several layers of legal statuses that determine rights within and beyond their borders. If their core polity (i.e. the polity that determines all of their other statuses) detaches from the nested polity, or the latter falls apart completely, the questions of status and rights become highly salient. Hence I refer to ‘centrifugal citizenship’ as processes of attribution of status and determination of rights in cases of secession or disintegration of multilevel polities.

Individuals confined to the borders of their core polity at the time of its departure from ‘the whole’ continue to exercise their rights in the core polity and commonly have a secure a status after secession. Their position is reasonably straightforward. By contrast, individuals who have established themselves outside the borders of their core polity owing to the rights of multilevel citizenship are in a more complex position. As will be illustrated by the case of the former Yugoslavia, status and rights of these people are commonly malleable and determined by the relationship between the rump and the seceded polity.

Centrifugal Citizenship in the Former Yugoslavia

The former Yugoslavia had two-tiered citizenship, consisting of the federal and republican levels. As in most federal states, the republican citizenship was derived from the federal level, which had primacy in the hierarchy of citizenships. This had two practical implications. First, a simultaneous acquisition of the status of citizenship at both levels was necessary and automatic. That is, any holder of the federal Yugoslav citizenship would at the same time be a citizen of one of its republics. In many cases, but not always, the republican citizenship would be linked to the place where the person had settled. Dual citizenship among republics was not allowed. Second, the rights of citizenship originated from the federal level, but their implementation depended on the republics. This implies that the two levels of citizenship were tightly coupled.

As a consequence, experiences and legacies of the ‘citizenship constellation’ of the former Yugoslavia have shaped the citizenship of its successor states. This ‘centripetal citizenship’ was most manifest during the Yugoslav break-up in the early 1990s, when the initial determination of the status depended on the republican citizenship (Stiks 2006). This approach differentiated the post-Yugoslav states from the countries carved out of the Soviet Union, since the latter applied the ‘zero option’ for citizenship. The ‘zero option’ for citizenship meant that all persons legally residing in a country at the time of its independence would automatically receive its citizenship. Yet driven by nationalism that underpinned the Yugoslav break-up, the first wave of the post-Yugoslav states (Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia) granted citizenship automatically to those who were registered as citizens of the respective republics, but not to those who were residents. For example, a person who was a registered citizen of Macedonia but resided in Croatia would be granted a Macedonian citizenship. This approach proved to be highly exclusionary, due to high intra-republican migration in the socialist Yugoslavia, which was not adequately recorded by the republics’ authorities. Thus, those people most at risk were those who spent decades in a republic other than that of their citizenship but never registered residency there, or changed their republican citizenship. In fact, registration was not key to the exercise of individual rights in cases of free movement among republics, as many rights could be enforced in the space covered by the ‘citizenship constellation’.

Perhaps the most famous such case was that of the ‘Erased’ in Slovenia. These were citizens of the other former Yugoslav republics who had long term factual residence in Slovenia and another republic’s citizenship at the time of independence. Under Article 40 of the 1991 Citizenship Act of Slovenia, they were granted six months to apply for Slovenian citizenship. If they failed to do so, they were removed from the Register of Permanent Residents with long-term consequences on the exercise of their rights, including the franchise, welfare, and education.[1]

Citizenship issues also featured prominently in the disintegration of the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro (successor to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia between 2003 and 2006). Unlike in the former Yugoslavia, multilevel citizenship in this state was not federal. The State Union of Serbia and Montenegro never formally established its second tier of citizenship, but relied on citizenship regimes of the constituent states (Article 7 of the Constitutional Charter of Serbia and Montenegro). That is, each of the two constituent states had its own citizenship legislation, and decided on its membership. As noted by Dzankic (2010) and Rava (2010), the citizenship laws of Serbia and Montenegro diverged significantly (e.g., while Serbia is open to dual citizenship, Montenegro is not). This is similar to the structure of the nested EU citizenship, whereby membership in the encompassing polity is conditional upon membership in the differently regulated national polities.

The 2006 independence of Montenegro resulted in difficult circumstances for a number of people who lived in Montenegro with the citizenship of Serbia. To gain citizenship in the newly established state, most were required to renounce their Serbian citizenship, or re-register as permanent residents. In some cases, such as the Roma or refugees from Kosovo, this registration process was cumbersome. Having sought refuge in Montenegro in the late 1990s, these people did not possess the documents necessary to cross the (newly international) border between Montenegro and Serbia. As they were unable to obtain physical evidence of citizenship renunciation, they could not register as citizens and access the related rights.

EU Citizenship and the Departure of the UK

Citizenship of the European Union (EU Citizenship) is a multilevel citizenship. It was established in 1992 through provisions of the Maastricht Treaty which codified the rights of citizens of the Member States across the Union. These rights include, among others, the freedom of movement and residence, the right to non-discrimination on grounds of nationality, voting rights in municipal and European Parliament elections, consular protection by another EU country, etc. They are exclusive to individuals possessing the nationality of one of the Member States. That is, EU Citizenship is additional to and dependent on national citizenship (Article 20 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, TFEU).

In June 2016, a majority of citizens in the UK voted in favour of the UK withdrawing from the EU. Given the dependence of the status of EU Citizenship on the country’s membership of the Union, the departure of the UK inevitably raises the question of what will happen to individuals who have exercised their freedom of movement to or from the UK while the country was still a Member State. According to the United Nations’ Department of Economic and Social Affairs (2015), there are 3.3 million EU citizens living in the UK and 1.2 million UK citizens living in other EU Member States. Negotiating what status and rights these 4.5 million people will have after the decoupling of national and EU Citizenship, therefore, will be an important aspect of the two-year negotiations foreseen under Article 50 of the TFEU.

As in other cases of centrifugal citizenship, it is unlikely that the negotiated statuses will apply to those who decide to exercise freedom of movement past a certain date (presumably the day when the UK ceases to be an EU Member State). While there have been initiatives and petitions to secure a personal associate EU Citizen status for all UK nationals, such a motion would require a proportionate action by the UK government. Hence the transitory provisions that will be negotiated are most likely to apply to individuals who have acquired rights in the UK or in the EU through free movement of persons. These will include rights related to the prospect of residence or citizenship rights, as well as participation in local and European political processes.

In Lieu of a Conclusion

Secession and state disintegration raise a number of conceptual and legal questions. Citizenship is the core one, not the least because it is at the heart of a democratic polity, but also because it affects lives of individuals. The experience of the disintegration and secession in the post-Yugoslav space provides a valuable lesson in this respect. That is, that centrifugal citizenship might result in marginalisation or exposure to statelessness. Therefore, avoiding adverse consequences for UK citizens in the EU, and EU citizens in the UK, needs to be an important concern (rather than a bargaining chip) for both UK and EU policymakers negotiating the former’s exit from the Union.



Bauböck, R. (2010). Studying citizenship constellations. Journal of ethnic and migration studies, 36(5), 847-859.

Džankic, J. A. (2010). Transformations of Citizenship in Montenegro: a context-generated evolution of citizenship policies. CITSEE Working Paper 2010/03. University of Edinburgh.

Miller, D. (2000). ‘Citizenship and national identity’. In Democracy: A Reader edited by Ricardo Blaug, John Schwarzmantel. Polity Press: Cambridge.

Rava, N. (2010). Serbia: elusive citizenship in an elusive nation-state. CITSEE Working Paper 2010/08. University of Edinburgh.

Stiks, I. (2006). Nationality and citizenship in the Former Yugoslavia: from disintegration to European integration. Southeast European and Black Sea Studies, 6(4), 483-500.

United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs (2015). Trends in International Migrant Stock: Migrants by Destination and Origin, http://www.un.org/en/development/desa/population/migration/data/estimates2/estimates15.shtml

Further reading

Henderson, A., Jeffery, C., & Wincott, D. (eds.). (2013). Citizenship after the nation state: Regionalism, nationalism and public attitudes in Europe. Springer.

Maas, W. (ed.). (2013). Multilevel citizenship. University of Pennsylvania Press.

Shaw, J., & Štiks, I. (2012). Citizenship in the new states of South Eastern Europe. Citizenship studies, 16(3-4), 309-321.




[1] In the 2010 judgment Kuric and others v. Slovenia (26828/06), the European Court on Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled that the removal of applicants from the register constituted a violation of the right to private and family life and the right to an effective remedy (articles 8 and 13 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms).

Posted by Jelena Dzankic in Policies, 0 comments
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