The National Museum of Ethnology (Minpaku) is a research center for ethnology and cultural anthropology.

The Anthropology of Nationality and Passports

Joint Research Coordinator CHEN Tien-Shi

Reserch Theme List


The establishment of modern nation-states had an enormous impact on humanity. We can cite the introduction of the passport system as one example of the impact. Modern nation states have established nationalities and national borders, and their issuance of passports and other forms of identification have tied individuals to a particular locality and allowed them to control people crossing national borders. A passport now acts as identification of an individual as a member of a certain nation, and also determines other details such as that individual’s rights and locus of conscious identification.

However, with the precipitous rise in the flow of people and information resulting from globalization, consciousness concerning the nationality of people and national borders has become more diversified. Take the example of the EU, which has given birth to a form of membership identification that transcends the national level. In addition, while there are individuals who have acquired more than one passport due to naturalization, acquisition of permanent residency, or international marriage, there are other cases in which ethnic groups who hitherto have not had the concept of nationality have the citizenship system imposed on them. There are also individuals who find themselves without nationality due to vagaries of national power or conflicts with naturalization laws. In looking at issues related to nationality and passports, some individuals experience an identity crisis, and others consider nationality and passports as tools for crossing borders and acquiring rights.

This research group is composed of researchers from a number of different disciplines, including anthropology, law, sociology, history and political economics, who focus on various aspects of nationality and passports. This diversity is such that while considering their impact on humanity and clarifying the symbiotic relationship between humanity and nation-states, we can also understand the significance of nationality and passports to humanity in the context of a global society.