The Citizen and the Alien

Dilemmas of Contemporary Membership

by Linda Bosniak

Citizenship presents two faces. Within a political community it stands for inclusion and universalism, but to outsiders, citizenship means exclusion. Because these aspects of citizenship appear spatially and jurisdictionally separate, they are usually regarded as complementary. In fact, the inclusionary and exclusionary dimensions of citizenship dramatically collide within the territory of the nation-state, creating multiple contradictions when it comes to the class of people the law calls aliens--transnational migrants with a status short of full citizenship. Examining alienage and alienage law in all of its complexities, The Citizen and the Alien explores the dilemmas of inclusion and exclusion inherent in the practices and institutions of citizenship in liberal democratic societies, especially the United States. In doing so, it offers an important new perspective on the changing meaning of citizenship in a world of highly porous borders and increasing transmigration.


As a particular form of noncitizenship, alienage represents a powerful lens through which to examine the meaning of citizenship itself, argues Linda Bosniak. She uses alienage to examine the promises and limits of the "equal citizenship" ideal that animates many constitutional democracies. In the process, she shows how core features of globalization serve to shape the structure of legal and social relationships at the very heart of national societies.

  • Princeton University Press; September 2008
  • ISBN: 9781400827510
  • Read online, or download in secure PDF or secure ePub format
  • Title: The Citizen and the Alien
  • Author: Linda Bosniak
  • Imprint: Princeton University Press

In The Press

"No other legal academic has confronted the divide of constitutional equality and citizenship's inherently exclusionary aspects as Linda Bosniak does in this book. It persuasively highlights the failure of most constitutional and political theorists to account for the boundedness of citizenship even as they aspire to its universality. The book brings a compelling new perspective to an important subject."—Peter J. Spiro, Temple University Law School

About The Author

Linda Bosniak is a professor at the Rutgers University School of Law.