As an organizing concept, citizenship in social and policy studies does not have a unified meaning. Most literature focuses at its legal meaning. Further, the development and evolution of the concept differs between Northern and Southern contexts. While in the global North it is tied to the industrial revolution, in the global South the notion emerges from colonization. This has meant that citizenship’s legalistic focus is rigid and limited to national membership. However, because of its legalistic origins and ties to notions of 'national identity' approaches to cover the social and economic under 'citizenship' have tended to be nationalistic. From a poverty standpoint, this is problematic because groups can be ascribed nationality – a level of political recognition without being accorded appropriate the social and economic opportunities to access resources necessary for livelihoods and wellbeing.
My analysis focuses on this problematic. It argues that citizenship is itself a problematic concept because it is often assumed as a cure to social problems yet the experience of poverty suggests a form of graded citizenship, with some being more citizens than others. Furthermore, my analysis demonstrates that current debates on citizenship lack empirical evidence i.e., excludes lived experiences of people in poverty. This raises the question of what citizenship ideals articulated in policy mean in practice – in the everyday lives of marginalized and deprived communities. More importantly, the situation of Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs) demonstrates that policy can be a tool to challenge prevalent notions of citizenship but this requires an understanding of lived experience. Hence, this study pursues this question by centering the voices of PVTGs.