Naturalisation, Desert, and the Symbolic Meaning of Citizenship

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The chapter considers recent trends in naturalisation legislation in Europe and what they might imply for the symbolic meaning of citizenship. During the first decade of the 21st century many European states have strengthened requirements for access to citizenship. This development has both had a primarily symbolic dimension, cf. the British attempt to emphasise citizenship as a valuable and important identity, and an outright exclusivist dimension, cf. the Dutch and Danish tests for language proficiency and knowledge of society. The chapter proposes an interpretation of these types of naturalisation requirements as involving notions of desert and asks what these developments imply about the meaning of citizenship. Naturalisation marks the boundary of society understood as a political community, i.e. a civic rather than territorial boundary. How this boundary is policed and on the basis of what requirements are important factors affecting the symbolic meaning of citizenship more generally. The symbolic meaning of citizenship thus depends on but is nevertheless distinct from the formal legal status of citizenship or the legal rights attendant upon this status. The chapter argues that the introduction of naturalisation tests and other desert-based naturalisation requirements imply that citizenship comes to have different symbolic meanings for native born citizens and naturalised citizens because such requirements distinguish between volitional or ‘earned’ and ascriptive or ‘natural’ citizenship. The chapter finally draws attention to a number of reasons why such differential meanings of citizenship might be problematic.
TitelTerritories of Citizenship
RedaktørerLudvig Beckman, Eva Erman
Antal sider20
ForlagPalgrave Macmillan
Publikationsdato30 jul. 2012
ISBN (Trykt)978–0–230–34775–5, 0-230-34775-4
StatusUdgivet - 30 jul. 2012


  • Citizenship
  • Naturalisation
  • Immigration
  • Symbolic meaning

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