people in a demonstration with a sign saying UN should recognize Kurdistan as a state

Citizenship not the solution for stateless groups

Earlier research has shown that citizenship in a nation state, like Sweden or Great Britain, is the solution for stateless groups, like, for instance, Palestinians and Kurds. However, Barzoo Eliassi, researcher at Linnaeus University, shows in his new book Narratives of Statelessness and Political Otherness that this is insufficient and does not solve the problem.

What does it mean to not belong to a nation state? Barzoo Eliassi, associate professor of social work, has studied this question in his interdisciplinary book Narratives of Statelessness and Political Otherness. The book is based on interviews with Palestinians and Kurds in Sweden and Great Britain, with focus on citizenship and nationality.

“Despite having citizenship in a nation state, stateless groups experience that they are met with disrespect and often lack an effective voice. True equality cannot be achieved until the nation state is decolonized and de-etnified”, says Eliassi.

Statelessness is in essence a product and a result of excluding nation states. Therefore, Eliassi means that the solution cannot be to become a citizen of a nation state, but instead that the nation state as a political order must be redefined in order to not create hierarchies of identities within the framework of the state.

Stateless people excluded on the political world arena
In his book, Eliassi illustrates that nation states are often based on ideas that promote national conformity, which means that minorities become subject to non-recognition and assimilation.

“It is only by becoming a nation and belonging to a nation state that a group’s political existence can be guaranteed. In this way, stateless people are also excluded on the political world arena”, Eliassi explains.

“A nation state is based on exclusion, but no society is homogenous. Still, the group that claims to be the nation state’s core group gets political and cultural privileges, from which minorities are often excluded. The backside of political and cultural privileges often involve oppression of minority groups whose belongings are often questioned, and also making these groups invisible” Eliassi continues.

Eliassi’s reasoning is based on the creation of an order in which differences between people are not hierarchised. That is to say, where certain groups get privileges, with the right to dictate and distribute the resources in society, while others are punished for not belonging to the political normality for which nation states create the conditions.

Society naturalises inequality
“A state should be what in research is called a ‘multi homeland’. A state that several groups claim as their political home, where their identities are recognised and respected – simply a society in which differences and diversity are natural dimensions of societal life”, says Eliassi.

A lot of people would say that it is impossible to achieve such a society. What would you say to them, based on your research?
“Many claims for rights have been considered utopian through history, it is not until you start questioning the naturalised political order that you can create a new design for inclusion, beyond hierarchies. What is more, in our society we often naturalise inequality, but that’s a result of politics and ideologies. Why can’t we see equality as something natural?, Eliassi concludes.

More information

The book Narratives of Statelessness and Political Otherness (2021) is based on Barzoo Eliassi’s research project Statelessness and political belonging in a world of nation-states.

The book is published by the publishing house Palgrave Macmillan. Learn more about the book on the publishing house’s website: