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Retheorising Statelessness

A Background Theory of Membership in World Politics

Kelly Staples

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Applies international political theory to statelessness as an ethical and political concern

Stateless persons are increasingly a concern of governments, international agencies and NGOs. Now, Kelly Staples supplies a much-needed political theorisation of statelessness. Her membership theory framework combines theory and contemporary case studies to demonstrate the connection between the protections of state membership, the burdens of statelessness and the situation of stateless persons.

Key Features
  • A critical contribution to understanding the principles and practices of membership and protection in 21st century international politics
  • Bridges empirical and legal accounts of statelessness and existing theoretical accounts of membership, rights and protection
  • Essential reading for those interested in the future study of international political theory, global justice and human rights


1. Membership in World Politics
2. Michael Walzer and the Denial of Membership
3. Richard Rorty on the Kindness of Strangers
4. Onora O'Neill: Fixing the Scope of Ethics?
5. Towards a Background Theory of Membership
6. Contemporary Statelessness: eastern Democratic Republic of Congo
7. Contemporary Statelessness: the Rohingya
8. Retheorising Statelessness

About the Author

Kelly Staples is Lecturer in International Politics in the Department of Politics and International Relations at the University of Leicester. She was awarded her PhD by the University of Manchester in 2008, and is author of 'Statelessness, sentimentality and human rights: A critique of Rorty's liberal human rights culture', published in Philosophy and Social Criticism in 2011.


This book is a significant contribution to ongoing debates about the tensions between citizenship rights and human rights. Staples refuses to identify exclusion from the state with exclusion from the human, and offers a promising alternative to predominant equations of statelessness with 'bare life'. Her argument will be essential reading for all those interested in steering a course between statism and cosmopolitanism in international political theory and international practice.

- Kimberly Hutchings, London School of Economics

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