Projects ELP

Calling for the Super Citizen: the genealogy and effects of naturalisation

Elisabeth Badenhoop


This project explores the puzzle of naturalisation for the ideology of nation-states. Migrants who seek full membership challenge nation-states defined as membership associations through birthright. Yet, by making the active request for naturalisation they acquire citizenship in a way that better matches the state’s democratic self-understanding.

Combining contemporary social theory with qualitative social research methods, I critically analyse the governance and implementation of naturalisation procedures in Germany and the United Kingdom by focussing on three interrelated research questions in my ongoing publications.

First, how can we meaningfully conceptualise naturalisation without reifying the ambivalent logic of inclusion and exclusion inherent to the idea of nation-states? To this end, I develop the poststructuralist framework of subject-formation and conceptualise naturalisation procedures as attempts at shaping a particular subjectivity which I term the “Super Citizen”.

Second, how did this particular subject-formation regime come into being? My research reconstructs the genealogy of naturalisation by comparing the laws and statutes that successively introduced the requirements for German and British citizenship from the 19th century to the present through various moments of state-formation.

Third, how successful are these attempts at subject-formation? My research moves beyond existing analyses of subject-formation by focussing on both attempts and effects of subject-formation. Drawing on interviews with citizenship applicants in the UK and Germany, I explore how migrants interact with this subject-formation regime and to what extent they identify with, or contest, the ideal of the Super Citizen.