English Issue > 2009

An Annual English Selection - 2009 - 50 -Supplement

What Is it to Become French ?
Naturalization as a Republican Rite of Institution




pp. 37-64


There are two directions to French immigration policy : restricting new arrivals and simultaneously facilitating access to French nationality. In the recent period, the public authorities have focused closely on naturalization, and this has led to a significant increase in number of persons naturalized French, and the development of a solemn ceremony for conferring on them the certificate officializing their new status. On the basis of a three-year study conducted in the Paris region, we show that naturalization may be considered a rite of passage that transforms the foreigner into a citizen after a long selection test, whose positive outcome is then celebrated by an integration ceremony. Above all, it may be considered a rite of institution that brings about a dual separation : among immigrants who are candidates for citizenship, the test distinguishes those deemed worthy of joining the national community, but the ceremony has the effect of differentiating within the nation those who came from elsewhere. The ambiguity of naturalization thus inheres in the fact that at the moment it produces sameness, it introduces otherness, as is brought to light by a comparison of the celebrations observed in the state administration of the prefecture with those observed in municipalities. Nevertheless, the ritual is a performative act that brings into existence what it utters and ties the national community together through the promise of a genuine contract.



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