Week6: Citizenship and Rights in the New Republic

This week, I feel like there were a  wider variety of different or conflicting narratives compared to previous topics. I want to focus on three main points for this post; citizenship, Josefina Pelliza de Sagasta’s writings, and rights in general.

I’ve never actually thought about how nations determined the requirements one must fulfill to gain citizenship. In Japan for example, if at least one of the parents is a Japanese citizen at the time of a child’s birth, the child is considered a Japanese citizen. I doubt the politicians who legislated the Japanese nationality laws had much to debate since it was and still is a homogenous country. In the United States, before birth-right citizenship, I assume only white people were considered citizens because of the clear distinctions between races. Therefore, I can see why legislators in Latin American nations struggled to define what it means to be a citizen with the racial and ethnic diversity the region had. This conflict evidently shows the (mainly white) elite’s inability to see people of color as equals, even though they fought alongside one another in the independence wars.

Josefina’s response to Maria Echenique’s article was very poetic. Her writing style seemed elegant and fragile compared to the strong, gallant feeling I got from Maria’s.  If I were to assign a color to the text it would be along the lines of baby pink:) She could have written back in a much stronger manner but I think she intentionally chose to write in soft words to draw attention to the contrast between women who are “angels of the house” and women who seek emancipation. She may also have been trying to speak to the side of Maria who wanted to surrender “to purely imaginative games, tracing with my pen beautiful images capable of stirring sweet emotions in the heart” by portraying women as divine, beautiful, poetic beings. Another thing that caught my attention in Josefina’s writing is her use of pronouns ( i always seem to get caught up on this…). She kept using “we” or “our” and I’m not quite sure if she’s trying to imply that she is writing on behalf of a certain group she is a member of or that the Argentine women, in general, would resonate with her opinion.

In the lecture video, John mentioned that “rights have to be first agreed upon and then interpreted before they can be actualized”. This reminded me of a class in high school where we discussed how the modern concept of rights is rooted in the Christian faith. It becomes very difficult to agree upon what rights a person should have if different communities believe in a different faith in the same country. I guess that is why the indigenous people, for example, had a different take on the right to freedom than the liberalist elites did. This could apply to modern times as well. How we view human rights in North-America and in the Middle East is drastically different. Women not being allowed to go out without her husband’s permission may seem absurd to me but is the norm elsewhere. This makes me think that maybe rights aren’t something we have to 100% agree upon because having the right to do something doesn’t mean you have to do it. Josefina may not agree that women should be emancipated but if she could respect other women’s decisions for wanting to be emancipated, women could have the right to do either.

some questions I have are

  • Who do you think Juanita is referring to when she says “we”?
  • What effects does the history of slavery have to this day?
  • do you think it’s possible for different communities with different beliefs to agree on a set of rights?

I know my post for this week is a bit long but thanks for reading!

3 thoughts on “Week6: Citizenship and Rights in the New Republic

  1. Emilia

    Thanks for a great post!
    To be fair, I personally didn’t pay much attention to the pronouns Josefina used. However, I think she could have been appealing to some kind of shared experience of womanhood ? The way she spoke about women and femininity gave me the sentiment, that they are all the same and serve the same purpose.
    Moreover, I think agreeing upon rights requires some kind of a common ground, which isn’t a given. I believe that women’s emancipation and the end of slavery are some kind of testimonials that it is possible. With sufficient pressure form both inside and outside, rights are eventually granted.

    1. cynthia lightbody

      Hi Emilia! I also didn’t pay much attention to the pronouns Josefina used, but I completely agree that she was appealing to a shared experience of womanhood. The way she speaks about women makes them seem like they are alive just to be there for men. Something she said that from what I can tell, shocked us all, was the following: “What man would want to see his daughters educated to be teachers and his sons for uselessness? What man would thus decline the sacred rights of his nature?” What’s worse is that these views were the norm. I can only imagine how useless women would feel during these times; while there may have been a strong sense of womanhood, it was based on discrimination and misogyny .

  2. Hannah Foster

    I think it is so interesting how all countries have different set of terms for citizenship. In Qatar, a parent has to have a Qatari passport or they says if you live in Qatar for 25 years without leaving for longer then 2 months you can have citizenship. The process for each country is so vastly different.
    In response to the rights idea, I think religion did have a lot to do with it but now we are moving towards a world that wants to respect each persons decisions. My beliefs should not be imposed on another person just because it was deemed I was more right. I think generally there are some very large rights that have been agreed upon and thus I think it is possible to see a standardized idea of rights.
    Great post!


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