"Changing teams". Citizenship ceremonies as policies for social cohesion
ISF Institute for Social Research Oslo, Norway
AVF Fafo Oslo, Norway
Immigration and the social, cultural and religious heterogeneities that have followed in its wake have challenged long-standing ideas about citizenship, national identity and social cohesion in Europe. Several Western European countries have in recent years introduced policies aimed at strengthening new citizens´ sense of and capacity for belonging through various forms of citizenship policies ranging from compulsory citizenship tests and citizenship courses to voluntary citizenship ceremonies. One way of depicting the trend is to say that receiving societies are addressing concerns about social cohesion by actively communicating a message of fundamental values, rights and responsibilities all citizens are expected to adhere to. Scholars have debated whether this represents an assimilationist turn and the extent to which European integration policies are converging, but few have, so far, looked at the actual implementation of these policies or tried to capture the participants´ experiences and assessments of such measures.
In this paper we focus on the Norwegian citizenship ceremonies which were introduced in 2006. Following the new Citizenship Act all new citizens are being invited to a citizenship ceremony organised by the County Governor. The ceremony is voluntary, but includes a compulsory oath of allegiance for those who elect to participate. Primarily it is established as an occasion to formally mark the transition to Norwegian citizenship in a dignified manner.
First, we analyse the arguments and ideas that were put forward in the process leading up to the adoption of this new citizenship policy. To what extent and how did this change reflect shifting ideas on citizenship, nationhood and social cohesion in Norway? We also locate this policy change in the wider context of European policy trends in this area. Second, we address new citizens´ experiences from being subjected to this type of citizenship and cohesion policy. We are able to draw on register data on participation and newly gathered data from semi-structured interviews with more than fifty new citizens, to ask questions such as: How do such ceremonies shape the actual relationships between migrants and the state? Do they make a difference to new citizens? ability and desire to participate and belong?