About The Project

About The Project

The Divisive Power of Citizenship

Erosion of nationality and the politicization of citizenship have become dominant features of discourse in Western democracies. However, these issues are not new: since the beginning of the 21st century Western states have been loosening historic hurdles to de-naturalization of their citizens, mainly as a consequence of the War on Terror and stricter treatment of migrants. In addition to this re-framing of citizenship – as a privilege that can be lost – supra-national organizations pose orthogonal challenges. For example, the European Union grants its citizens free movement, thereby relaxing the historic connection between citizenship and geographical region and replacing nationality with a new form of multi-layered citizenship.

This project, "The Divisive Power of Citizenship", seeks to relate and connect these recent processes effectively with historical precedents to create an expanded understanding of citizenship which can both reveal new insights about the past as well as the contemporary situation.

Focusing on East Asia in the early 20th century, we examine conditions applying to European merchants, whose citizenship bestowed distinct jurisdiction and rights compared with their Asian contemporaries – creating multilayered trans-cultural communities. Such competing communities can be analyzed in terms of colonial privilege, racism and nationalism, affording new perspectives on historical communities and also provide a lens through which to view the tumultuous processes at work today. Chronologically this survey spans the period between 1919 and 1945, witnessing the climax and decline of western dominance in East Asia and also the rupture precipitated by the Pacific War.

Project aims

The project studies evolving international relations and colonial expansion from this perspective, acknowledging the complex changes in the operation of citizenship. By focusing on the consequences of interaction between multiple communities we can describe the 20th century in a new way. We have formed an international collaboration to achieve this: the project brings together Prof. Dr. Toshiki Mogami, an expert in international human rights law, and Prof. Peter Cornwell, an expert in data science with Professor Dr. Madeleine Herren's team at the Europa Institute, Basel and Professor Dr. Sacha Zala of the Diplomatic Documents of Switzerland.

We will create Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Re-usable (FAIR) data resources under the canopy Pacific War Documentary Chain (PWDC), tracing the lives of thousands of citizens living abroad during this period, and also aggregating for the first time in one place information about those interned during the Pacific War.

The project will develop a theoretical conceptualization of citizenship and offer new perspectives in historical research, bringing previously unavailable documents into focus and delivering empirical findings to shape future visions of citizenship. Collaboration with CERN's data repository group and with the Research Data Association will enable state-of-the-art standards-based data resources to be created to benefit the wider scholarly community, protecting research investment in the long-term and providing a robust foundation of primary material for future researchers.


The Divisive Power of Citizenship comprises multiple sub-projects which are closely intertwined and share a common digital research infrastructure – providing workflows to connect leading scholars in citizenship studies and international human rights law internationally, especially in Japan. This infrastructure promotes dialogue between theory- building, historical empiricism and data science; precipitating face-to-face debate and confronting PhD students with the latest digital methods and their impact on humanitarian law and history. The sub-projects will together build a shared digital resource – the Pacific War Documentary Chain – correcting the existing scarcity of knowledge about citizens living abroad during the early 20th century.