Chapter 13 Racialized citizenship: challenging the Australian imaginary
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This chapter discusses exclusions from citizenship for precarious migrants in Australia. The term precarious in our formulation refers to those who are less likely to gain citizenship than those who arrive through seamless transition mechanisms that adhere to ‘ideals of Australianess’ and acceptance. As global mobility increases because of forced displacement, economic inequalities, and young people seeking educational opportunities, nation-states become increasingly inward turning and border restricting, accentuating temporariness and absence of belonging for non-citizens. Australia has some unique features in the global context, with its racialized foundations that, despite denial, remain in place, contradicting a narrative of Australia as a successful multicultural nation. Our contentions are illustrated by three examples of those we deem precarious in legal, discursive and applied practices. They are asylum seekers experiencing forced displacement, Pacific Island workers striving to overcome global economic inequalities and international students seeking educational opportunities available in the west. Each confounds notions of belonging and national identity, whether tolerated through economic integration or rejected as a threat. We argue that formal citizenship and citizen-related rights are racialized towards precarious migrants and while we focus on three contemporary categories of migrant, Australia has long implemented borders for those deemed as ‘other’ in the Australian imaginary. The idea of racialized citizenship contradicts the way in which mainstream Australia narrates its story, glorifying multiculturalism, diversity, egalitarianism, humanitarianism and a ‘fair go’ for all.

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