Skip to content
Register Sign in Wishlist

The Perpetual Immigrant and the Limits of Athenian Democracy


Part of Classics after Antiquity

  • Date Published: May 2019
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107670464

£ 19.99

Add to cart Add to wishlist

Other available formats:
Hardback, eBook

Looking for an inspection copy?

This title is not currently available on inspection

Product filter button
About the Authors
  • In the fifth and fourth centuries BCE, immigrants called 'metics' (metoikoi) settled in Athens without a path to citizenship. Galvanized by these political realities, classical thinkers cast a critical eye on the nativism defining democracy's membership rules and explored the city's anxieties over intermingling and passing. Yet readers continue to treat immigration and citizenship as separate phenomena of little interest to theorists writing at the time. In The Perpetual Immigrant and the Limits of Athenian Democracy, Demetra Kasimis makes visible the long-overlooked centrality of immigration to the originary practices of democracy and political theory in Athens. She dismantles the interpretive and political assumptions that have led readers to turn away from the metic and reveals the key role this figure plays in such texts as Plato's Republic. The result is a series of original readings that boldly reframes urgent questions about how democracies order their non-citizen members.

    • Demonstrates the centrality of immigration politics to ancient Greek political thought
    • Analyzes ancient efforts to critique the pull of nativism in democracy
    • The book is essential reading for political scientists and all those concerned with issues of race, immigration, and democracy, as well as classicists
    Read more

    Reviews & endorsements

    'The Perpetual Immigrant and the Limits of Athenian Democracy expands the frontier of critical democratic theory by offering original and insightful readings of Plato's political philosophy, Euripidean tragedy, and forensic oratory, Demetra Kasimis' probing analysis of the 'precarious proximity' of metoikoi - long-term non-native residents of ancient Athens - reveals much about classical political thought, Athenian history, and the entanglement of democratic ideals with nativist impulses. This book is both timely and a work for the ages. It has a great deal to offer to contemporary political theorists and classical historians alike. It should be read, pondered, and debated by everyone concerned with the contested category of democratic citizenship.' Josiah Ober, Stanford University, California

    'Theorizing democratic inclusion and exclusion together, The Perpetual Immigrant and the Limits of Athenian Democracy brings to light the ways in which understanding citizenship in Athenian political thought depends on interrogating the place of the metic. Attending to figurations of immigrant politics in texts by Euripides, Plato, and Demosthenes, Demetra Kasimis argues that political status - metic and/or citizen - is the uncertain and precarious performance of a naturalized distinction, a performance because, in truth, not natural at all. Full of provocative readings of the unstable place of the metic in polis life alongside shifts in the meaning of democratic citizenship, Kasimis's book offers a persuasive rejoinder to nativist readings of the ancient Greeks as well as to the nativist politics of our times.' Jill Frank, Cornell University, New York

    'In Kasimis's striking revision, the metic's exclusion on the basis of blood based descent, reveals not the primitive past of ancient democracy, but the ever-present pull of nativism for stabilizing democratic equality. This is an enormously generative insight. In exposing the politicization of identity to be a constitutive effect of democratic politics, Kasimis attunes us to both the recurring appeal but also the inherent ambiguity of naturalized categories of membership - a point she pursues in a bold rereading of the critical purpose of The Republic. With great subtlety and sophistication, Kasimis shows us how this ambiguity calls forth practices of policing and scrutiny that shape and stratify the lived experience of democratic citizenship.' Karuna Mantena, Yale University, Connecticut

    'Focusing on the inexplicably overlooked but nonetheless constitutively central role of the figure of metoikoi to both the practice and critical theory of Athenian democracy, Demetra Kasimis confronts interpretations of Plato that are not just taken for granted but which have served as fixed referents for generations of readers. She then proceeds not to amend or supplement such readings, but to turn them inside-out entirely, and in the process, to transform radically not only our readings of the classic texts, but also our fundamental understanding (historical and conceptual) of democracy itself. This book powerfully illuminates that democratic politics are always already metoikia - a politics of immigration, a politics of resident foreigners, a politics of participation and status, a politics of insider-outsiders, a performative politics, a (de)naturalizing politics, a politics of passing.' Samuel A. Chambers, The Johns Hopkins University

    'This theoretically supple and surprisingly timely book probes overlooked tensions internal to both the reality and the ideal of ancient Athenian democracy.' Joan Cocks, The Review of Politics

    'This is a challenging, but ultimately rewarding, book … Readers in Classical Studies and in Political Science will find much to ponder in this stimulating book.' Bryn Mawr Classical Review

    'Her interpretive approach is at once sophisticated and clear, offering a distinctive lens through which we can see the writers engaging critically with Athenian nativist politics.' Perspectives on Politics

    '… this book is 'good to think with'.' Sehepunkte

    See more reviews

    Customer reviews

    Not yet reviewed

    Be the first to review

    Review was not posted due to profanity


    , create a review

    (If you're not , sign out)

    Please enter the right captcha value
    Please enter a star rating.
    Your review must be a minimum of 12 words.

    How do you rate this item?


    Product details

    • Date Published: May 2019
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107670464
    • length: 224 pages
    • dimensions: 151 x 228 x 13 mm
    • weight: 0.35kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Part I. Autochthony Trouble:
    1. The metic in and out of theory
    2. Immigrant passing in Euripides' Ion, the tragedy of blood-based membership
    Part II. A Metric Republic in Three Acts:
    3. The Republic as a metic space
    4. Plato's open decret
    5. Of mimesis and metic: a reading of democracy in Book VIII
    Part III. Evading Detection:
    6. Citizen passing in Demosthenes 57: the oration of Athenian blood
    Conclusion: political theory from the edges of Athenian democracy
    Appendix. A metic timeline.

  • Author

    Demetra Kasimis, University of Chicago
    Demetra Kasimis is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago. Her research on classical Greek thought and democratic theory has been funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Council for Learned Societies, and has appeared in such journals as Political Theory and Contemporary Political Theory. The Perpetual Immigrant and the Limits of Athenian Democracy is her first book.

Sorry, this resource is locked

Please register or sign in to request access. If you are having problems accessing these resources please email

Register Sign in
Please note that this file is password protected. You will be asked to input your password on the next screen.

» Proceed

You are now leaving the Cambridge University Press website. Your eBook purchase and download will be completed by our partner Please see the permission section of the catalogue page for details of the print & copy limits on our eBooks.

Continue ×

Continue ×

Continue ×
warning icon

Turn stock notifications on?

You must be signed in to your Cambridge account to turn product stock notifications on or off.

Sign in Create a Cambridge account arrow icon

Find content that relates to you

Join us online

This site uses cookies to improve your experience. Read more Close

Are you sure you want to delete your account?

This cannot be undone.


Thank you for your feedback which will help us improve our service.

If you requested a response, we will make sure to get back to you shortly.

Please fill in the required fields in your feedback submission.