Naturalization policies, citizenship regimes, and the regulation of belonging in anxious societies

National citizenship is a core mode of social membership and belonging in ‘modern’ societies. In democratic societies, citizenship carries an aspiration to inclusion – so, citizens have a claim to equal social rights and membership. However, the institutions that are responsible for granting access to citizenship are falling well short of this vision. This gap is especially evident for migrants who want to become citizens or want to claim a long-term residence permit but find that the legal or financial barriers are too high. Citizenship has always operated to exclude some people just as much as it includes others, and indeed is argued by some to be inherently exclusionary, a story of complacency, hypocrisy, and domination, flattering to citizens and demeaning for noncitizens (Kochenov, 2019). With regard to the citizenship of migrants (especially those who naturalise), we see that inclusion and exclusion are the simultaneous experiences of the same people. Recent innovations in policies on access to citizenship across a wide range of countries contribute to a troubling observation: getting access to legal citizenship has become increasingly difficult, in particular for the most vulnerable groups of migrants, and gaining citizenship in the legal sense sometimes does not make one a citizen in a comprehensive substantive sense. The authors of this Special Issue aim to address these transformations from a sociological perspective, to respond to two questions. Through these questions, they aim to contribute to the literature on critical citizenship as well as to the emerging literature on the ‘lived experience’ of citizenship. (1) How do we make sense of the changes in policies on access to citizenship in the last 20 years? (2) How do these changes affect migrants who claim access to citizenship?

Leah Bassel, Pierre Monforte, David Bartram, Kamran Khan, Naturalization policies, citizenship regimes, and the regulation of belonging in anxious societies, Ethnicities, 2020.