What are the relationships between policies and laws on citizenship and experiences of belonging, recognition and sense of community? The Governing and Experiencing Citizenship in Multicultural Scandinavia (GOVCIT) project will shed new light on relationships between citizenship and integration. We do this through studying top-down policies and bottom-up lived experiences.
The Scandinavian countries have undergone major cultural and social changes due to migration. Considering the homogeneity of the region, the discrepancy in current citizenship regulation is remarkable. Requirements for citizenship acquisition differ: Norway is positioned in between liberal Sweden and restrictive Denmark. But both Sweden and Denmark permit dual citizenship, while Norway does not (till 2020). Citizenship in Scandinavia has become eroded, as most substantial rights are attached to permanent residency, not to citizenship. Social cohesion at community level is an explicit aim for citizenship policy.
These macro-level paradoxes inform our study. We analyzed documents and interviewed civil servants. At the individual level we recognize that identity cannot be legislated. Lived experiences are affected not by the letter of the law, but by practices, interpretations and negotiations. We were interested in the experiences of immigrants and descendants, as citizens or prospective citizens, which we learned about through a Scandinavian survey. We also conducted interviews with people both with and without immigrant background, to better understand the relationships between belonging and citizenship.
Belonging, community and integration are key to ongoing public debates, to which the GOVICT project has contributed through a focus on the interface of governing and experiencing citizenship.
In the course of 2016-2017 the project team conducted semi-structured interviews in the greater Oslo area, among people with and without immigrant background. In this period, questions of citizenship and identity, citizenship and revocation, have been recurring in Norwegian media and public debate. This centered, first, on a Police Directorate decision to remove the birth place in the passports of Norwegian citizens born in a select thirty countries, mainly in Africa and Asia (for reasons related to quality assurance in the identity documentation systems of the Police Directorate). And, second, on a citizenship revocation case, where the citizen in question Mahad allegedly reported a different country of birth than what Norwegian authorities were able to document, and based on this, was accused of obtaining citizenship on false grounds.The media stories and ensuing debates on citizenship, identity and revocation have been a central backdrop to the projects work in this period.
In 2018 a Scandinavian survey among young adults in Scandinavia about citizenship, citizenship policy and belonging, was conducted. In addition, interviews with Scandinavian historians and bureaucrats were conducted.
Throughout the period 2017-2019 the research team has conducted analysis of the qualitative interview material and published academic journal article on this basis.
The Scandinavian survey, however is the main project result. The data set is openly accessible via NSD, and a report available at www.prio.org/govcit documents survey findings with all descriptive statistics easily accessible. This survey data, focusing on citizenship, trust and community among young adults with an immigrant background, provides us with the basis for new ways of approaching the relationships between trust and citizenship, across Scandinavia. The data set includes a control group of young adults without immigrant background, and young adults who are born in and/or have lived most of their lives in Denmark, Norway or Sweden, and young adults who arrived as immigrants in these countries, already as youth/young adults. The respondents have backgrounds from Iraq, Pakistan, Poland, Somalia, Turkey and Vietnam.
Based on existing knowledge about immigration, integration and citizenship in Scandinavia, we would expect the differences in citizenship policy in Scandinavia to be reflected in the experiences, values and perceptions found among populations. However, the striking and overarching finding from this Scandinavian survey among young adults on the issues of citizenship, participation and belonging is the high degree of similarity found, across the three Scandinavian countries, and between groups (those without immigrant background, immigrants and descendants of immigrants).
Full survey report and other project publications: www.prio.org/govcit
The GOVCIT project has contributed to an increased knowledge base and awareness among bureaucrats and politicians, as well as civil society actors, on citizenship and its multifaceted relationships with integration in Scandinavia. These outcomes have been achieved through participation in the public debate and have contributed to current policy-making processes, on dual citizenship in Norway (including participation in the hearing process at the Parliament on dual citizenship), on the effects of restrictive naturalization requirements in Denmark, on the links between citizenship, integration and belonging, and to a more limited extent, on loss of citizenship as a consequence of engagement with terror activities (see NOU 2015). It may be expected that the potential impact of the project lies in the future, drawing on the Scandinavian survey, published in November 2019, and presented to Norwegian and European migration and integration policy makers in January 2020.
What are the relationships between policies and legal provisions of citizenship and experiences of belonging, recognition and sense of community? The Governing and Experiencing Citizenship in Multicultural Scandinavia (GOVCIT) project will shed new light, empirically and theoretically, on relationships between citizenship and integration, drawing on quantitative and qualitative data from Scandinavia, paying particular attention to the Norwegian case. The Scandinavian countries have undergone major cultural and social changes due to migration. Considering the homogeneity of the region, the discrepancy in current citizenship regulation where Norway is positioned somewhere between liberal Sweden and more restrictive Denmark, is remarkable. The citizenship institute in Scandinavia has gradually become eroded as most substantial rights extended to new societal members are attached to permanent residency. However, many states seek to reinvigorate the citizenship institute either by restricting access to naturalization, or through ritualization, with the aim of promoting social cohesion. Simultaneously, increased acceptance of dual citizenship is occurring in Europe. These macro-level paradoxes inform our study. At the micro-level, "identity cannot be legislated" and increasing diversity is leading to fierce identity politics in Scandinavia. The project will produce new data through a study of (i) citizenship policy development (interviews and document analysis), of (ii) survey on experiences and perceptions of citizenship among immigrants and descendants in Scandinavia, and (iii) a Norwegian case-study of lived experiences of citizenship (employing ethnographic methods, including immigrants and non-immigrants). Through this the project will contribute to ongoing public debates about the preconditions for social cohesion and belonging, focusing on the interface of governing and experiencing citizenship.