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photo of Elizabeth Rhoads

Elizabeth Rhoads

Postdoctoral fellow

photo of Elizabeth Rhoads

Citizenship Denied, Deferred and Assumed : A Legal History of Racialized Citizenship in Myanmar


  • Elizabeth Rhoads

Summary, in English

Since the late colonial period, Myanmar has experienced heated debates over notions of belonging, including belonging as inscribed through citizenship status. At independence, Myanmar opted for a hybrid citizenship regime that allowed for paths to citizenship based on both jus sanguinis and jus soli principles, as well as a liberal naturalization policy. However, a new citizenship law passed in 1982 created a tiered system with differential eligibility, rights, and application procedures for jus sanguinis and jus soli pathways, highly restricting the jus soli path to citizenship while privileging state-recognized ethnic groups by strengthening jus sanguinis pathways. The article traces the historical evolution of Myanmar’s postcolonial citizenship regime and how notions of belonging, foreignness, and nativity engendered one of the world’s most racialized citizenship regimes. A close examination of the citizenship regime highlights how citizenship and belonging for Myanmar’s ‘unofficial minorities’ are both contingent and ‘in process’, often a status left pending rather than denied or secured. This creates a ‘deferred citizenship’ which impacts not only individual applicants and their descendants but perpetuates Myanmar’s exclusionary and tiered citizenship system, ensuring that the ‘citizenship question’ is passed to the next generation.


  • Human Rights Studies
  • Centre for East and South-East Asian Studies, Lund University

Publishing year





Citizenship Studies

Document type

Journal article


Taylor & Francis


  • International Migration and Ethnic Relations
  • Law and Society


  • Muslims
  • minority rights
  • discrimination
  • nativity
  • naturalization
  • denationalization




  • ISSN: 1469-3593