The ideal of the modern subject? Exploring the limits of the 2004 Irish citizenship referendum debate
Ní Mhurchú, Aoileann (2011) The ideal of the modern subject? Exploring the limits of the 2004 Irish citizenship referendum debate. PhD thesis, Dublin City University.
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This thesis explores the limitations of how political subjectivity is conceptualized in existing analysis of the 2004 Irish Citizenship Referendum. By approaching this analysis through the work of R.B.J. Walker and his notion of the constitutive subject of sovereign politics, what is highlighted is how its existing statist starting point for theorizing political subjectivity fails to allow for an understanding of how other types of subjectivity, which
cannot be defined in terms of a sovereign binary, might also need to be theorized in respect of the question of migration. The ambiguous subjectivity of Irish citizen children born to migrant parents – as those neither ‘included in’ or ‘excluded from’ the state but
in-between both positions – is pointed to in this thesis as an example of the type of complex subjectivity which is denied a place in the ‘politics’ of the 2004 Irish Citizenship Referendum, as currently theorized. Drawing on the work of Julia Kristeva, the thesis considers what an alternative framework for exploring citizenship outside of the dominant framing of sovereign subjectivity, would look like. By approaching the question of citizenship from the perspective of her work, this thesis shows how political
subjectivity can also be understood as embodied in experiences of relative and contingent spacetime of ‘being’. It uses the metaphor of ‘trace’ to conceptualize these alternative spatiotemporal experiences. As such the thesis contributes to our understanding of the
politics of dominant ‘critical’ citizenship scholarship; the impact of migration on conceptions of belonging; and to broader theoretical attempts to recognize how political
subjectivity is experienced outside of a statist political discourse. It concludes that existing analysis of the 2004 Irish Citizenship Referendum is limited by its inability to
theorize political subjectivity outside of a specific conception of space as independent of its physical content and of time as linear and progressive.
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