Ancestry into Opportunity: Dual Citizenship and Commodification

Since the 1990s, dozens of countries changed their laws to permit multiple citizenship. Numerous European Union (EU) countries – including Spain, Italy, Hungary, Poland and Romania – adopted laws that invite co-ethnics, emigrants and their descendants to reacquire citizenship from abroad. Millions of persons in Latin America, Eastern Europe and Israel have taken advantage of this new opportunity and applied for a second, EU citizenship. I analyze this phenomenon on the basis of statistical data and material from interviews with dual citizens. I find that seekers of ancestry-based dual citizenship typically do not emigrate to their “new” countries; instead, they obtain “compensatory citizenship” that provides them with broader opportunities, greater travel freedom, an insurance policy and even a status symbol. This phenomenon reflects the diffusion of an instrumental attitude that treats national citizenship as a form of private property and uses it to secure global advantages.