Millionaire Mobility and the Sale of Citizenship

Thursday, March 11, 2021 at 1:00pm to 2:30pm

Virtual Event

Part of the Myron Weiner Seminar Series on International Migration with guest speaker Kristin Surak, Assistant Professor in Sociology, London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)

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Please Note: the event time has changed and this event is now beginning at 1pm


Why do wealthy people purchase citizenship in peripheral countries? This talk investigates the demand for citizenship by investment programmes, which enable naturalisation based on a donation or financial investment. Extending research on long-distance naturalisation among the middle class and on residence by investment programmes, I examine the motives of the wealthy using citizenship by investment options. Based on over one hundred interviews with rich naturalisers and intermediaries in the citizenship industry, I find that mobility, both in the present and as a future hedge, is a strong driver, followed by business advantages. Often it is privileges in third countries – not the place granting the citizenship – that are sought. In contrast to middle-class strategic naturalisers, quality of life, education options, and job prospects were not important, though navigating geopolitical barriers and risks were. Many naturalisers were not compensating for the failures of their citizenship at birth, but manoeuvering within a world of state competition. Finally, some individuals inverted the citizenship hierarchy and downgraded from ‘first tier’ memberships when, after years of living abroad, their nationality became a liability. The conclusion elaborates on the duplex structure of intra-state and inter-state inequality that channels demand, and the implications for citizenship more broadly.

About the speaker:

Kristin Surak joined the London School of Economics in 2020 from SOAS University of London where she was a Senior Lecturer (Associate Professor) of Japanese Politics. Her research on international migration, nationalism, and political sociology has been translated into a half-dozen languages. In addition to publishing in major academic and intellectual journals, she also writes regularly for popular outlets, including the London Review of Books, New Statesman, New Left Review, and Washington Post. She is the author of Making Tea, Making Japan: Cultural Nationalism in Practice (Stanford University Press 2013), which received the Book of the Year Award from the American Sociological Association’s Asian Section.  She has been a Richard B. Fischer Member of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, Fung Global Fellow at Princeton University, Sainsbury Fellow at the Sainsbury Institute for Japanese Arts and Cultures, and a Visiting Professor at the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, and she is a Lifetime Fellow of Clare Hall, University of Cambridge.  The American Academy of Political and Social Science has recognized her scholarship, which has been funded by the German Science Foundation, Japan Foundation, Fulbright-Hays Foundation, and Leverhulme Foundation, among others. She comments regularly for global media outlets, including the BBC, Deutsche Welle, Channel News Asia TV, and Sky TV News. Her book Citizenship 4 Sale: Millionaires, Microstates, and Mobility will be published by Harvard University Press in 2021

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Co-sponsors:  MIT Center for International Studies

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Free and open to the public

Sponsored by the Inter-University Committee on International Migration
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The Inter-University Committee on International Migration
Since its establishment in 1974, the Inter-University Committee on International Migration has been a focal point for migration and refugee studies at member institutions, which include Boston UniversityBrandeis UniversityThe Fletcher School of Law and DiplomacyHarvard UniversityMITTufts University, and Wellesley College. The committee is chaired by MIT as a program of the Center for International Studies (CIS).

Migration Seminar Series
During each academic year, the Committee sponsors a seminar series on international migration, The Myron Weiner Seminar Series on International Migration, held at MIT's Center for International Studies. The seminars explore factors affecting international population movements and their impact upon sending and receiving countries and relations among them.

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