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Definition: stateless from The Macquarie Dictionary

without nationality.


Computers having no memory of previous activity, configurations and settings, as of the internet where each request for a web page is processed without reference to any preceding request.

Compare: stateful

statelessness noun

Summary Article: STATELESSNESS
From The Edinburgh Dictionary of Modernism

If COSMOPOLITANISM can be thought of as an enriching facet of the experience of migration, statelessness might be seen as its obverse. Statelessness has a more specific connotation than EXILE, because those affected lack an effective nationality and are not recognised as a citizen of any country. Its emergence as a category is tied to the rise of ideologies such as COMMUNISM, fascism and NATIONALISM under the sway of which refugees were vulnerable to being classed with suspicion as ‘enemy aliens’ by nation states. Events in the opening decades of the twentieth century such as the Armenian genocide, the Russian REVOLUTION and the rise of fascism and political anti-Semitism in European countries made the plight of stateless persons a recurrent one and prompted huge growth in their numbers. In The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951) the philosopher Hannah Arendt, who had herself been stripped of her German nationality in 1937, argued that stateless persons were effectively rendered speechless by their diminished political existence; in fact, the loss they had to endure was as much ontological as political, since they were deprived of the social context into which they were born and which made their actions and speech meaningful.

A considerable number of writers and artists were affected by the phenomenon. Having earlier fled the Russian Revolution, the novelist of Russian Jewish origin, Irène Nemirovsky, author of Suite française (2004), was arrested in Paris in 1942 as a ‘stateless person of Jewish descent’ and taken away to Auschwitz, where she died; after Germany's annexation of Austria in 1938, the Jewish writer Stefan Zweig had his Austrian passport confiscated and was obliged to apply for British naturalisation; Igor Stravinsky and Vladimir Nabokov were both holders of ‘Nansen passports’, an internationally recognised travel document issued to Russian Civil War refugees and later extended to other groups; the novels Liebe deinen Nächsten (Flotsam, 1939) and Arc de Triomphe (Arch of Triumph, 1945) by Erich Maria Remarque both feature stateless protagonists; Armen Lubin was an Istanbul-born member of the Armenian diaspora who emigrated to France in 1922 in the wake of the Armenian genocide and produced a body of poetry in French exploring in oblique ways the ruptures and traumas peculiar to the experiences of statelessness and ILLNESS; lastly, the French-language work of Gherasim Luca, a Romanian-born writer of Jewish origin, who for most of his life deliberately eluded the possibility of naturalisation as a French citizen, enacts in spectacular fashion the condition of linguistic dispossession through a poetics of stammering.

  • Arendt, Hannah (1951) The Origins of Totalitarianism. Harcourt, Brace New York.
  • Butler, Judith; Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (2007) Who Sings the Nation-State? Language, Politics, Belonging. Seagull Books Oxford.
  • Chalk, Bridget T. (2014) Modernism and Mobility: The Passport and Cosmopolitan Experience. Palgrave Macmillan Basingstoke.
  • Greg Kerr
    © in this edition Edinburgh University Press, 2018; © in the individual contributions is retained by the authors

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