Citizenship

It would be impossible to explain the entire history of citizenship and all the details of its evolution in one document that most people would be able and willing to read. Anyone who would like to dig deeply into the topic should perhaps read Paul Magnette’s Citizenship: The History of an Idea (Colchester, UK: European Consortium for Political Research Press, 2005), Derek Heater’s A Brief History of Citizenship (New York City: New York University Press, 2004), or this Academic Master’s Thesis on the legal/linguistic nature and evolution of citizenship from Ancient Greece all the way to the European Union. These issues will also be covered in shorter articles on our Medium.com publication and a lot of the focus will be on drawing the conceptual and historical difference between citizenship and nationality (the latter has only been around since the 1700s and it is a modern implementation of the former, which has existed since roughly 500 BC).

But the task here will be focused on a much more provocative contrast between what some might call “the North” and “the South”. So let us begin this way, then:

Have you noticed that the word “citizenship” contains traces of the word “city”? It seems quite evident so perhaps you have.
But what is the German word for “citizenship”? Does it fit the same pattern?

Well, yes… and no.

It is quite peculiar that as far as Germanic languages go, most [but not all] hang on the concept of “Burg” (Danish: borgerskab; Dutch: Burgerschap; German: Bürgerschaft; Icelandic: Ríkisborgararéttur; Norwegian: borgerskap/borgar; Swedish: Medborgarskap). Meanwhile, Romance languages generally make use of “city” or more precisely derivatives of the Latin “civitas” (Catalan: ciutadania; French: citoyenneté; Italian: cittadinanza; Spanish: ciudadanía; Portuguese: cidadania; Romanian: cetățenie).

English seems like the most unique exception given that it is a Germanic language that uses “city”, but perhaps French is a vastly more interesting case. At first sight, everything seems to be in order because French is a Romance language that contains the Latin root that the other languages also include. But it is crucial to recall that French derives from Old French, which itself comes from Frankish (Old Franconian). Frankish was a West Germanic language spoken somewhere between the 4th and 8th Century AD by an old Germanic tribe known as the Franks. So everything becomes more interesting when we put two histories together:

In Latin, a civis was a member of the civitas.
In Germanic, a Burger was a member of the Burg.
In French, the concept of civitas gave rise to the “citoyen”
… meanwhile the concept of Burg evolved through the Latin “burgus” into “bourg” until we derived “bourgeoisie
Do “citoyen” and “bourgeoisie” mean the same thing?

This will be the invisible (micro-level) story of the visual history in the Home Page.

Here, we will study the evolution not of two tribes, but of two concepts. In the end we will discover that any number of tribes, families or concepts can be united in the same way as the multilingual proverb that motivated this entire website: through the realization that there are many ways to express the same idea and we always have a choice between creating common ground (community) or pushing boundaries in a struggle where there cannot be a winner.


[…To Be Continued…]

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