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Earned citizenship: assumptions and implications

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This article, based on interviews with citizenship officers of local councils in London, examines lay constructions of citizenship and their implications. Earned citizenship was a dominant theme in the interviews. This discourse emphasises the ‘duties’ of new citizens and the negative impact of migration. An important underlying assumption of the earned citizenship discourse is that new citizens do not normally deserve to be granted citizenship. Furthermore, this discourse was often anchored in distributive justice claims, related mainly to the allocation of welfare benefits. It is argued that such justice claims are grounded in a territorially bounded view of the world which supports the superiority of the entitlements of the native population over those of the new British citizens or migrants and that the discourse of earned citizenship symbolically excludes new citizens and migrants. The interview findings are also discussed in relation to the official public policy of earned citizenship.

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