Responding to the Super Citizen Call: Migrants’ experiences of naturalization in Germany and the UK
Migration and citizenship studies tend to conceive of naturalisation as a highly ambivalent process, simultaneously including and excluding migrants by granting full membership to certain migrants while separating them from other migrant and national-born citizens. In the first comprehensive, comparative study of naturalisation procedures in the UK and Germany, I make the case for moving beyond this inclusion/exclusion divide by conceptualising naturalisation as a subject-formation regime. This regime aims at the modification and optimisation of newly-naturalised citizens’ self-understanding and behaviour by mobilising specific problematisations, rationalities, authorities and techniques. Based on extensive ethnographic fieldwork in four locations in Britain and Germany, my research demonstrates that citizenship courses, tests and ceremonies encourage naturalised citizens to transform themselves into a political, economic and cultural asset to the nation-state, a subjectivity which I term – in allusion to its overstraining character – the ‘Super Citizen’. And how is the call for the Super Citizen received and answered? Drawing on interviews with migrants applying for citizenship in Germany and the UK, this article analyses migrants’ experiences of naturalization and identifies three responses to the Super Citizen call: embrace, contestation and ignorance. I argue that subject-formation is powerful but not deterministic as the literature suggests. The Super Citizen produces ambivalent inclusionary and exclusionary effects including a competition for state recognition and new hierarchies among naturalized, national-born and non-national citizens.