Citizenship and Its Exclusions

A Classical, Constitutional, and Critical Race Critique

236 pages

May, 2010

ISBN: 9780814776070



Also available in


LawAmerican Studies

Part of the Critical America series


Ediberto Román is Professor of Law at Florida International University. He is the author of The Other American Colonies: An International and Constitutional Law Examination of the United States’ Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Island Conquests, and edits the NYU Press series Citizenship and Migration in the Americas.

All books by Ediberto Román

Citizenship is generally viewed as the most desired legal status an individual can attain, invoking the belief that citizens hold full inclusion in a society, and can exercise and be protected by the Constitution. Yet this membership has historically been exclusive and illusive for many, and in Citizenship and Its Exclusions, Ediberto Román offers a sweeping, interdisciplinary analysis of citizenship’s contradictions.

Román offers an exploration of citizenship that spans from antiquity to the present, and crosses disciplines from history to political philosophy to law, including constitutional and critical race theories. Beginning with Greek and Roman writings on citizenship, he moves on to late-medieval and Renaissance Europe, then early Modern Western law, and culminates his analysis with an explanation of how past precedents have influenced U.S. law and policy regulating the citizenship status of indigenous and territorial island people, as well as how different levels of membership have created a de facto subordinate citizenship status for many members of American society, often lumped together as the “underclass.”



  • "Roman shows in historical and contemporary terms that members of some groups (women, African Americans, and Latinos, for instance), do not achieve full access to the rights of citizenship . . . The historical and theoretical analysis Roman provides is solid and quite informative. Its condensed nature makes Citizenship and its Exclusions a lively and accessible introduction to these issues." 

    —Julie Novkov, The Law and Politics Book Review

  • "Citizenship and Its Exclusions provides an excellent history of citizenship...Roman is an exceptional writer and researcher."

    —Arthur Rizer, The Federal Lawyer

  • "A timely interrogation of our citizenship tropes. Román’s passionately demonstrates that the promise of citizenship has consistently fallen short on both historical and contemporary landscapes. Far from a warrant of inclusion and equality, citizenship has more often been used as cover for caste and subordination. Román’s looks to bring citizenship's lofty aspirations to an authentic attainment.”

    —Peter J. Spiro, author of Beyond Citizenship: American Identity after Globalization

  • “At a time when members of Congress hector President Obama in a televised address on the issue of citizenship and health care, and when know-nothing restrictionists dominate talk radio and cable news, this is a refreshing, thoughtful, and timely work. Román has broadened his traditional work on Puerto Rico and the American colonies to examine carefully the literal and symbolic meanings of U.S. citizenship. His incisive unbundling of ‘the construct of citizenship’ and the consequences of variegated membership is foundational work that will be widely cited, if not always by judges then surely by a wide array of immigration and other Constitutional scholars.”

    —Michael A. Olivas, author of “Colored Men” and “Hombres Aqui”: Hernandez v. Texas and the Emergence of Mexican American Lawyering

  • “A rich and impassioned exploration of the persistence of second-class citizenship in the United States. Román vividly portrays the injustices concealed by our discourse of equal citizenship.”

    —Gerald Neuman, J. Sinclair Armstrong Professor of International, Foreign, and Comparative Law, Harvard Law School

  • “Tracing the tortured history of citizenship, Román deftly illustrates both the legal and the social mechanisms by which entire groups have been denied the full benefits of United States citizenship despite an otherwise functional equivalence to their fellow Americans. It is an uncomfortable but enlightening story.”

    —Stephen H. Legomsky, co-author of Immigration and Refugee Law and Policy