Section 2 – De-territorialized Diversity: Global and Transnational Dimensions

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In 1992, at the signature of the Maastricht treaty, when the European Union counted twelve member states, some leaders of immigrants’ voluntar associations involved in building transnational solidarity networks talked about themselves as the thirteenth state or even the thirteenth nation. Such a formulation suggests a feeling of collective belonging that is de-territorialized with regard to a member state and to any nation. The thirteenth idea points also to the emergence of transnational communities on a European level, that is, communities structured by individuals or groups settled in different national societies who share some common references that are not territorially bounded. In a broader sense, such transnational communities take into account the context of globalization and economic uncertainty that facilitates the construction of worldwide networks.


Their institutionalization requires a coordination of activities based most often on common references (objective or subjective), a coordination of resources, information, technology, and sites of social power across national borders for political, cultural, and economic purposes. The mode of action of such a community is de-territorialized even if the references remain territorial. The rhetoric of mobilisation recentralizes, in a non-territorial way, the multiplicity of identities that make for the internal diversity that is fragmented yet represented in such a structure.


The new transnational community, imagined either out of a religion or an ethnicity that encapsulates linguistic and national differences, seeks self-affirmation across national borders and without geographic limits, as a de-territorialized nation in search of an inclusive (and exclusive) centre around a constructed identity or experience (immigration, dispersion, minority). It aspires to legitimacy and recognition by both the state and supranational or international institutions.


The de-territorialization of diversity is best perceived juridically through the Citizenship of the Union, a status defined by the Treaty of Maastricht in 1992. Although the treaty maintains the link between citizenship and nationality, as is the case in nation-states, the practice of citizenship of the Union (direct participation: vote) brings an extraterritoriality with regard to nation-states. But it introduces at the same time an extra-territorial element into the concept of citizenship, extending its practice beyond territorially limited nation-states, therefore de-territorializing the national community and re-territorializing the European space. From this perspective, territory becomes a broader and unbounded space where nation-states and supranational institutions interact, and where transnational networks build bridges between national societies and Europe.

This development raises many questions with relation to citizenship, nationality and identity, territory and space; a space for political participation that goes beyond national territories that re-map a transnational political community and therefore de-territorialized and/or re-territorialized one. The question therefore is: is de-territoriality the ultimate source of new tensions between states and communities or, more generally, a source of tensions within the international system?