(Il)liberalism and Discrimination in Post-World War II Naturalization Policy: The Cases of France and Switzerland
Despite rising concerns about the recent “restrictive backlash” (Goodman, 2014, p. 2) of Western naturalization policies, reinforced by rising supports for anti-immigrant populist parties, an intensifying generalized Islamophobia, and tighter border controls, there exist few studies analyzing the discriminatory aspects of naturalization regulations. This is partly due to the argument of the continuous liberalization of democratic states’ nationality regimes following World War II that has dominated the field of Citizenship Studies until the late 2000s. My research seeks to fill this gap by highlighting the discriminatory aspects of France’ and Switzerland’s contemporary naturalization regimes' foundations. With a focus on the 1945 Code of Nationality in France and the 1952 Law on the Acquisition and Loss of Nationality in Switzerland, two building blocks of each country’s naturalization regimes, I ask: were the key naturalization regulations adopted after World War II as liberal and non-discriminatory as what has been depicted by prominent citizenship scholars? With a focus on policy motivations, I adopt a qualitative discourse methodological approach. I analyze thousands of archival documents on the process of policy-making by the executive and legislative branches of both countries’ governments (including inter-ministry activities, experts’ and parliamentary commissions and parliamentary debates). Preliminary results show that far from being embedded in a comprehensive liberal ideology that policy-makers would have willfully endorsed after World War II, the French Code of Nationality was adopted as a result of the urgent contextual needs of the post-Vichy society, whether demographic, economic and identitary, while the Swiss Law on Nationality responded to a well-prepared reversion to tradition and restriction against "unfit" and "unassimilable" foreigners. In both cases, the discretionary power left to administrative authorities, the central aspect of the "assimilation" naturalization requirement as well as policy-motivations based on ascriptive characteristics such as foreigners’ nationality of origin opened the door to group-based discrimination.