Department or Program



In the United States, citizenship as a theory has been constantly subject to contestation and disagreement. However, because recognition by a political institution is necessarily prior to any more substantive notion of citizenship, the state plays a key role in the regulation and definition of citizenship. Research in American Political Development (APD) suggests that political institutions and ideas often conflict, and define state institutions as constantly in flux and constantly developing (rather than in equilibrium) as different ideas and governing authority vie for permanence and durability within the institutional structure. Scholars of APD have pointed out that institutional structure allows for endogenous development as political entrepreneurs and social movements exploit the frictions created by institutional misalignments. Ideational development in the polity marks a shift in authority, but because the state is so fragmented, old ideas never die. In light of these theoretical characterizations of the relationship among institutions, ideas, and entrepreneurial actors, this thesis examines citizenship as an idea during and after Reconstruction (1863-1876). This thesis suggests that the contestation over the meaning and content of citizenship status between the Republican-led Congress, the president, state governments, social movements like the KKK, and the judiciary that took place during Reconstruction not only leads to an endogenous explanation for its failure, but also sheds light on how the fragmented state leads to a fragmented and inevitably unsettled definition of U.S. citizenship.

Level of Access

Open Access

First Advisor

Engel, Steven

Date of Graduation

Spring 5-2016

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Number of Pages


Components of Thesis

1 pdf file

Open Access

Available to all.