The Rise of Reparative Citizenship
UVA Law Faculty Affiliations
Over the past twenty-five years, a growing number of European countries have enacted laws granting citizenship to individuals and their descendants unjustly excluded in the past. These ‘reparative citizenship’ initiatives employ citizenship as a remedy and apology for historical exclusion. This essay argues that such initiatives have the potential to shift conceptions of citizenship. Instead of a privilege to be conferred at the sole discretion of the sovereign state, citizenship may become a status owed for reasons of corrective and distributive justice. Yet it is telling that reparative citizenship has thus far been granted sparingly, acknowledging the wrongful exclusions only of some groups and not others. Also significant is the near total absence of reparative citizenship initiatives in the United States. These limits suggest that despite its transformative potential, thus far reparative citizenship remains the exception that proves the rule.