Naturalization Policies and Politics of Belonging in France (1945-2011)

Project Name:

Naturalization Policies and Politics of Belonging in France (1945-2011)


Camille Desmares, PhD Candidate, Department of Political Science, UBC 

Project Description:

Beyond determining the legal process by which foreigners acquire the nationality of a host country, naturalization policies both delineate the conditions of belonging to a civic and national community and appraise which foreigners deserve to become a member. As such, they constitute a symbolic site where the relationship between host societies and foreigners as well as the separation between a communal ’us’ and an otherized ‘them’ are defined, affirmed and reified. My dissertation investigates the ways in which naturalization policies in France participate in defining the politics of belonging to the French national community and in framing the relationship between the French citizenry and foreigners from 1945 to 2011. On October 19, 1945, the work of the Inter-Ministerial Commission for Naturalizations, whose mission was to identify whom, of the “foreign elements, honest and loyal, healthy and assimilated,” could be “integrated within the national community” (Journal de la République Française, Article 2, 9 mars 1945, 1966), resulted in the adoption of the Code of French Nationality, the first comprehensive legislation on foreigners’ access to French nationality. However, despite the official support to the civic and republican ideal of nationality acquisition through consent, the conditions of foreigners’ naturalization as outlined in the 1945 Code of Nationality granted a high discretionary power to the administrative officers in charge of making decisions. With a critical hermeneutical approach, I analyze parliamentary debates, governmental reports and public speeches surrounding the development, changes and implementation of naturalization policies in the period 1945-2011 to delineate dominant understandings of the relationship between the French citizenry and foreigners, and to uncover the ways in which ‘us’/‘them’ relations are framed in national policies. The preliminary analysis of the data reveals that by presenting the acquisition of French nationality as a legal favor offered to the ones who have the merit and the motivation to acquire it, by leaving a high discretionary power to French authorities as to who gets to become a French citizen, and by maintaining the possibility of forfeiture of nationality, ‘republican’ naturalization policies of the period 1945-2011 are highly exclusionary and reify distinctions between prospective naturalized foreigners, already naturalized foreigners, and French citizens.

Project Stage:

Data analysis / writing


April 2017
Western Political Science Association (Vancouver, Canada), Paper presenter
How does the ‘Self’ Relate to the ‘Other’? Relative Identities and Truthful Narratives

October 2017
International Students Association (Providence, U.S.A.), Paper Presenter
France and its Others: Discourses on National Identity and Foreignness in the Period 1938-1945

August 2018 (forthcoming)
European Consortium for Political Research (Hamburg, Germany), Paper presenter
Naturalization Policies and Politics of Belonging in France (1945-1973)