Typically when asked ‘who is responsible for setting citizenship rules’ there are two general answers that fall out. On the one hand we might hear ‘the government is responsible for setting down citizenship regulations,’ and on the other we might hear ‘the people are responsible for establishing membership guidelines.’ The latter explicitly locates power in the hands of the people, whereas the former recognises legitimised political bureaucracies and machinations are responsible for citizenship. In this post, I want to briefly look at some of the processes and theoretical discussions surrounding citizenship and immigration, and in particular how they relate to ‘Fortress Europe’ and a recent British controversy surrounding citizenship tests.
The Boundaries of Citizenship
Western nation-states have developed around liberal conceptions of citizenship. As a consequence, citizenship is associated with a particular legal status that requires members to fulfill a set of legally enforceable requirements. These requirements can include holding a certain amount of money, it may involve active participation as a citizen (i.e. remaining active in communities that one is being naturalised by volunteering, being active in local politics, etc), or being born in a geographic area.