Department or Program



Climate change will devastate the earth and force many individuals to flee, particularly those from small island nation-states. Currently, these people would not fit under the designation of refugee set forth by the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees, because it has no provision for environmental displacement. Expanding the notion of refugee would not address the problem because the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and related organizations do not have the capacity or resources as well as the fact that refugees from small island nation-states will be permanently displaced and have no chance of returning to their country of origin. The grounding question is how will climate change refugees, especially those from small island nation-states, gain recognition and rights? This thesis turns to citizenship as an institution that confers rights and recognition. Traditionally, it is rooted in the sovereign and the nation-state; climate change presents new challenges insofar as there will be individuals whose national identity is linked to land that will be under the sea; there is no chance of return. I contend that in the age of climate change, citizenship should be reimagined and set forth two different ways to do so. While no panacea is found, this thesis aspires to advance current thinking and identify contradictions and tensions in reconstructing citizenship.

Level of Access

Restricted: Campus/Bates Community Only Access

First Advisor

Richter, James

Date of Graduation


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Number of Pages



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