As I've been thinking of ways to engage with nationalism, citizenship, or relations between these categories through the lens of queer theory, I had a hard time clarifying which issues to engage with and how to do it. I thought the best way to start would be the actual government-issued material on the subject, so I started by reading through the Guide to Naturalization put out by the Dept. of Homeland Security. The ways it inscribes nationalism and patriotism into the process of naturalization are disturbing to me. So next I found this great article dealing with the ways that legal status can act as a purely functional tool for getting a passport, drivers license, etc and then the way legal status can act as a social mechanism, either positioning a person in an illegal, foreign space, or a legal, yet still foreign space, or the hetero-nromative ultimate goal of legal, not foreign space. "Foreign" here can be substituted with "abject" "stranger" "invisible" and many other choices, but I really want to explore the aspect of foreignness. And who is better to do that with than Kristeva? I know that Kristeva has a big presence in the abjection category, but the interview I used as my last source really deals with issues confronted through foreignness and individuality within a group, nation or collective. So this is my start to streamlining and exploring my term and am open to any and all comments.
A Guide To Naturalization
US Citizenship and Immigration Services, US Department of Homeland Security
This is the official source straight from the government, and it is scary! Basically, this book is just what it says it is: a guide to becoming the exact citizen that the Department of Homeland Security wants you to be. There are a lot of forms that a prospective citizen might need, there is an extensive question-and-answer section, and there are also the requirements of what it takes to be a citizen. In the introduction, there is also a really helpful list of benefits of becoming a US citizen, of which my favorite is patriotism.
This source I cited mainly because I think it is important to look at the actual literature the government sends out to any prospective citizens, and also to know the process that immigrants go through. The term "naturalization" really bothers me, and I am trying to clarify my thoughts about it for myself, but am still working on it. It really did help to sit down and go through this guidebook. Part of the reason I have such a problem with the term naturalization is that it is so close to the way that bodies, sex and gender have this hetero-normative discourse positing one specific body, sex, or gender as "natural". I think that the process of legal naturalization, or becoming an American citizen so thoroughly there is nothing distinguishing you from anyone else, therefore positing that there is one type of ideal citizen, is the same as how culturally there are expectations of one natural way to exist as well.
United States. Department of Homeland Security. A Guide to Naturalization. Washington: GPO, 2009.
The Functionality of Citizenship
Mark C. Fleming
This is an excellent paper that explores some of the issues (mostly political) surrounding citizenship and nationalism, and naturalization. The section that I found the most enlightening is the second section, about the duality of citizenship. It looks at the "functionality of citizenship" versus a "nationalism". Basically, the functionality of citizenship means the outright products of citizenship: right to vote, work, live, etc in a country. The nationalism aspect, however, is often required along with citizenship. The nationalism imprinted by the government on anyone who wants citizenship is what takes the process from simply attaining legal status to naturalization. Also, the article mentions in one area that Australia has abandoned the idea of trying to impart a nationalist, "naturalizing" mentality on people seeking citizenship. Fleming summed up the Australian governments thoughts that "being Australian carried no implications of homogeneity of language, culture, or religion."
This article was, for me, a great find. It was really interesting the way Fleming described the relation between a citizen and the nation in both a vertical and a horizontal manner. The vertical role of citizenship is the functional aspect; when getting a drivers license for instance, you need to go through official government workings. But the horizontal role, the affective role, of playing the part of patriot, nationalist, complete, visible, "naturalized" citizen is separate. The article argues for this separation as far as is possible.
The entire site that I got this source from seems like a really good way to go about finding really intelligent information about legal issues around the world. As I browsed through more of the articles, I was thinking that this would be a great site to learn more about the issue of citizenship and what it means in different countries.
Fleming, Mark C. The Functionality of Citizenship. Harvard Jean Monnet Working Paper no. 10/97. NYU. 6 Nov. 2009.
Cultural Strangeness and the Subject in Crisis
Interview of Julia Kristeva by Suzanne Clark and Kathleen Hulley
This is an interview with Julia Kristeva that mostly relates to her book Strangers to Ourselves. The interview starts with a discussion on the crisis of discourses that is a constant factor in this period of post-modernity. One of these crises is surrounding the discourse of foreigners/strangers. Kristeva talks about the issue of immigration in France and how the French are not yet ready to deal with foreigners or foreignness because of the phobia attached to the national identity. Kristeva also posits that this crisis can be good, because it opens up the possibility of analyzing and redefining the discourse. This same possibility exists within an individual, especially an individual that is an individual because they are marginalized for some reason. Also the American ideal of the autonomous individual and the positivist idea of woman is confronted by Kristeva, who again, thinks that this positivist notion of a person denies the possibility for marginalized individuality as a tool for analysis and change.
This article really works along with the Fleming article to show the ways that citizenship and individuality vs. collective identity work. Whereas Fleming contrasts the functionality of citizenship with the prescribed social role of the citizen, Kristeva analyzes the position of the individual citizen and their views on foreigners and the foreignness they see in themselves. Kristeva's points are really productive; she works to break through the notion that marginality is a bad thing in any discourse, and she acknowledges many discourses: sexuality, gender, medicine, citizenship. All of these discourses are in crisis right now and she is evaluating that crisis as a productive disorder because it serves as a starting point for the changes to be made in thought and practice, of how foreignness is viewed.
Guberman, Ross Mitchell, ed. Julia Kristeva Interviews. New York: Columbia University Press, 1996.