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A Journey to Citizenship: Exploring New Citizens’ Accounts of Citizenship Tests and Citizenship Ceremonies - Debra Gray Craig Owen Chris Griffin

Citizenship, as one writer suggests, is “on everyone’s minds today” (Joppke 1999, p. 629) - a statement which is borne out by the considerable focus on citizenship in both political discourse and social scientific enquiry. Of particular concern, is the relationship between citizenship and immigration, with many pointing out that a significant dilemma facing many modern states is the need for migration to meet labour needs, amid concerns about integration and social cohesion (e.g. Yuval-Davis, Anthias & Kofman, 2005). In response, the UK government introduced mandatory citizenship tests and citizenship ceremonies with the intention of fostering a common British citizen identity that is intended to draw citizens together in a new form of national community (Gray and Griffiths, 2013). Indeed, a stated aim of these new citizenship procedures is that they will give deeper and broader substance to the formal status of citizenship by “strengthening active participation ...and a sense of belonging to the wider British community” (Home Office, 2003, p. 29).

In the UK, these new procedures for citizenship have been widely debated (e.g. Yuval-Davis et al., 2005; Worley, 2005), but there has been little research on the impact that citizenship tests and ceremonies have on those who are required to undertake them. To address these gaps, we propose to conduct an in-depth qualitative study with 20 would-be British Citizens, with the aim of examining how citizenship tests and ceremonies are experienced both in (and across) these different national contexts, how this relates to the ways in which people see themselves as ‘belonging’ to a national community, and how this gives meaning to other social and national identities.


We anticipate that this research will provide valuable insight into how citizenship procedures play out ‘on the ground’ and amongst different members of the British community; particularly in terms of the stated aims of promoting integration and belonging. Moreover, this research will make a substantial contribution to recent social psychological theorising about citizenship, which has sought to (re)consider the ways in which selfhood and nationhood are constituted in the everyday accounts of ‘ordinary’ actors (e.g. Condor, 2011).

 

 

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