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First-Year Seminar (101-6-20)


Birthright Citizenship


Katrina Quisumbing King
Professor Quisumbing King received her PhD in sociology from the University of Wisconsin – Madison in 2018. Before joining Northwestern, she spent two years as a postdoctoral fellow at USC. Her research and teaching interests lie in topics related to empire, race and ethnicity, citizenship and migration, intersectionality, law, and political and historical sociology.

Meeting Info

Harris Hall L05: Tues, Thurs 2:00PM - 3:20PM

Overview of class

"Birthright Citizenship"

This discussion-based seminar is an introduction to the social scientific and historical study of U.S. citizenship. Debates over immigration and citizenship are long-standing in the United States. And today's politicians continue to raise concerns over who (as in what kind of people) should be granted membership. These are fundamentally questions over who belongs and who is deserving. Some on the right, including the 45th President, seek to abolish birthright citizenship, claiming it is a "magnet for illegal immigration."

Students will learn the history behind granting citizenship to anyone born in the United States. They explore the history of U.S. citizenship law and learn about the interests and justifications for narrower and more capacious definitions of citizenship. Other than birthright citizenship, what regimes for granting citizenship exist? What are the exceptions to birthright citizenship in the United States? How are decisions about and definitions of rights and membership related to ideas of race? Overall, this course will address how the United States has drawn boundaries of membership in racial terms and explore what this means for envisioning future possibilities.

Learning Objectives

At the end of this class, students should understand the arguments made for and against birthright citizenship over the course of U.S. history. They should be able to explain in what ways citizenship reflects ideas of belonging. Students should be to identify the justifications for boundary-making in today's debates over citizenship and migration. In addition to providing an introduction to citizenship, this course will help students develop their critical thinking and communication skills.

Teaching Method


Evaluation Method

Weekly quizzes, Attendance and participation, Leading Discussion, Papers

Class Materials (Required)

All materials for this course will be made available on Canvas - no purchase necessary.

Class Attributes

WCAS First-Year Seminar

Enrollment Requirements

Enrollment Requirements: Reserved for First Year & Sophomore only