Uncertainty is central to the governance of citizenship, but in ways that erase, even deny, this uncertainty. Uncertain citizenship investigates this uncertainty from the unique vantage point of ‘citizenisation’ – twenty-first-century integration and naturalisation measures that make and unmake citizens and migrants, while indefinitely holding many applicants for citizenship in what Anne-Marie Fortier calls the waiting room of citizenship. Fortier’s distinctive theory of citizenisation foregrounds how the full achievement of citizenship is a promise that is always deferred. This means that if migrants and citizens are continuously citizenised, so too are they migratised. Citizenisation and migratisation are intimately linked within the structures of racial governmentality that enables the citizenship of racially minoritised citizens to be questioned and that casts them as perpetual migrants. Drawing on multi-sited fieldwork with migrants applying for citizenship or settlement and with intermediaries of the state tasked with implementing citizenisation measures and policies, Fortier brings life to the waiting room of citizenship, giving rich empirical backing to her original theoretical claims. Scrutinising life in the waiting room enables Fortier to analyse how citizenship takes place, takes time and takes hold in ways that conform, exceed and confound frames of reference laid out in both citizenisation policies and taken-for-granted understandings of ‘the citizen’, ‘the migrant’, and their relationships to citizenship. Uncertain citizenship’s nuanced account of the social and institutional function of citizenisation and migratisation offers its readers a grasp of the array of racial inequalities that citizenisation produces and reproduces, while providing theoretical and empirical tools to address these inequalities.
The chapter introduces the social historical conjuncture around, as well as theoretical underpinnings of, uncertain citizenship. It draws on the Windrush scandal to foreground how uncertain citizenship disproportionately affects racially minoritised people, and that the racialised uncertainty of citizenship is historically embedded rather than contingent on national institutional and political ‘cultures’ or international trends. Uncertain citizenship starts from the premise that international trends need to be understood in context in order to better capture the specific histories and social and political climates that shape and impact on definitions of, and inequalities within, citizenship regimes. The chapter also introduces how citizenisation and migration are intimately connected.
Scene 1 provides information about the institutional context and processes that are at the centre of this study while it also gives more details about the methods used and the general profile of participants.
Chapter 1 has two aims. First, to situate citizenisation policies within the broader European context where they have become ‘common sense’, and second to introduce theoretical underpinnings and heuristic devices supporting this book. The chapter argues that studying the ‘social life’ of citizenisation forces a reconsideration of the relationship between integration and naturalisation by asking a deceptively simple question: what is naturalised in citizenisation? The chapter then develops a conjunctural analysis of converging trends of neoliberal governance that retool citizenship through its skillification, securitisation and renewed domestication, and argues that citizenisation – and by extension migratisation – is a social intervention that reaches far beyond those that it targets – migrants – and reaches into the fabric of society as a whole. The chapter also introduces ‘the waiting room’ as a heuristic device that foregrounds three axes of citizenisation: temporality – how citizenship takes time; spatiality – how citizenship takes place; and affect/bodies – how citizenship takes hold. The device of the waiting room captures the interplay between, on the one hand, the structural and institutional conditions that bring people to the waiting room – as language teachers, registrars, ceremony officials or migrants – and on the other hand, how people inhabit these governing practices.
This chapter traces the imperial and colonial legacies underpinning current citizenship and citizenisation laws and policies in Britain. This long view of British citizenship reveals a lot about the imperial and racial impulses of Western European citizenships more broadly, while it takes seriously historical developments that are specific to Britain. The chapter argues that Britain is a global institution that has always been part of the international political and economic landscape where citizenship is continuously redefined. The relative late arrival of a specifically national British citizenship was more about citizenising Britain than it was about redressing a historical weakness; it was about equipping the British state with the technology of citizenship in the process of further hardening the borders of British nationality and nationhood.
Scene 2 presents a scene from a training session organised by UKVI case workers, for registrars tasked with checking applications for Settlement on the basis of Marriage (SET(M)). The scene emphasises how documents circulate, are interpreted and must be ‘curated’ to produce an appropriate ‘picture’ for an application to be successful.
Chapter 3 is concerned with the generative capacities of documents, that is, how individuals engage with, relate and respond to documents as they are produced, exchanged, negotiated, transformed and moved by and between individuals. Following the paper traces and trails as they circulate in the waiting room of citizenship takes us to the broader ‘relational politics of curation’ that position applicants and registrars in different relations to each other and to the state. The chapter reveals the role of documents in making and unmaking citizens, migrants and citizenship itself, which means that citizenisation impacts on the lives of migrants and citizens alike, though with significantly different effects. The chapter concludes with a summary of how the ‘documented citizen’ is fragmentary, contingent, ephemeral and caught within a set of interpretive gaps about the law and its effects, while it is at the same time emplaced, temporal, embodied and affective.
Scene 3 takes us to a language school in the North West of England, and to conversations with several migrants. It highlights the inequalities embedded in the postcolonial Anglophone world – exemplified here in the author’s own interactions with these migrants – and sets up the complex ways in which regimes of seeing and regimes of hearing operate in current language requirements for citizenisation.
The chapter is concerned with the current common-sense politics around language, integration and citizenship that pervades most Western European countries, and where language is deemed a civil right that enables individual and social cohesion – jus linguarum (David Gramling’s term). Drawing on a raciolinguistic approach, the chapter argues that the disappearance of ‘national language’ as a constructed category allows for the disappearance of other categories, such as whiteness. Situating British language requirements in the colonial history of the rise of English as a ‘world language’, the chapter shows how a form of ‘provincialised English’ arises from the tensions between the inevitability of multilingualism in today’s global world, the status of English as a ‘world’ language, and the insistence of English as the ‘national’ language. The chapter then examines the effects of provincialising English and ongoing linguistic inequities as they are lived on the ground, and exposes how jus linguarum is normalised and naturalised through practices of verbal and audial hygiene. The chapter concludes with a discussion the effects of jus linguarum on the normalisation of white English monolingualism and on the ‘migratisation’ or ‘racialisation’ of those who speak otherwise.
Scene 4 depicts a citizenship ceremony from the point of view of Aisha, a new citizen, and Harry, a registrar. It serves as a description of typical ceremonies in England, and raises a number of themes that are picked up in Chapter 5.