Wednesday, 4 March 2020

The Making of "Self-Sufficient" Citizens: "Civic Turn" and Visions of Integration in the French Naturalisation Process


Scholars have often underlined that the civic turn promotes a communitarian vision of integration that aims to defend the moral if not ethnocultural foundations of the national community. Although this article does not dismiss that claim, it reflects on the paradoxical combination of that vision with a neoliberal vision of integration in the French context.  Through the analysis of the condition of “professional integration” for naturalisation, the article investigates whether economic performance requirements for the granting of French citizenship stand in contradiction with the communitarian dimension of the civic turn or whether they support each other. To answer this question, the article draws on administrative archives and on case law from early twentieth century onwards, as well as on interviews with French civil servants and also with lawyers and judges. It shows that from the 1990s onwards – in a context where the French state reaffirms the importance of integration and even assimilation for naturalisation – professional integration has not been simply understood along economic-moral lines, as was traditionally the case since the beginning of the twentieth century, but has taken on an ethnocultural dimension. When applied to Muslim applicants (or at least applicants perceived as such), professional integration is becoming a means to test one’s recognition of “national values” such as gender equality. Nowadays in France, the contemporary interpretation of professional integration combines neoliberal standards of economic performance and communitarian expectations of assimilation into the “culture” of the national community.