Language, Immigration and Naturalization

5 April 2016

This month we are publishing Language, Immigration and Naturalization edited by Ariel Loring and Vaidehi Ramanathan. In this post, Ariel introduces the main themes of the book

Language, Immigration and NaturalizationLanguage, immigration, and naturalization – the title of this book in fact – are three topics with a steady influence across both time and space. Historically, language policies and ideologies have affected, and continue to affect, immigration and naturalization laws, immigration quotas, citizenship tests and nationalistic discourse. Geographically, recent world events have ignited impassioned disagreements concerning im(migration) and national borders. Prior research on citizenship has been embedded in numerous fields of inquiry (including applied linguistics, sociology, education, legal studies and policy studies) and often views “citizenship” through its legal definition of “rights and responsibilities.” What characterizes this volume is its holistic consideration of citizenship in terms of access, participation, engagement and culture.

Our edited volume not only considers the everyday legalities of naturalization but also broader identity and sociopolitical concerns. Its chapters are organized into three subsections – Policies, Pedagogies and Discourses – and includes discussions about:

  • The means by which a particular country accepts naturalized citizens
  • The language of citizenship tests and classes
  • The labeling of who is or isn’t a “citizen” or “member” of society
  • The lived experiences of immigrants in bordered areas
  • The depictions of citizenship and immigration in media discourse

The authors pursue these topics from various research backgrounds and in different areas of the world. Collectively, they explore the experiences of immigrants/outsiders as they make a life in their adopted/native country. In addressing these issues, the following three questions come to light:

  • What does the process of becoming a citizen look like?
  • In what ways are people excluded from full participation?
  • How does language position and frame insiders and outsiders?

We, the editors, are drawn to this research because of the universality of immigration and naturalization issues and the debates and policies that ensue. We realize that even those who live far from a national border are still exposed to political language that dehumanizes migrants and fears differences. And those who themselves are descendants of immigrants are able to rationalize the exclusion of new immigrants. As ramifications of citizenship and naturalization are infused in everyday meaning-making and constructions of identity, this volume brings a needed critical and linguistic lens to these topics.

Ariel Loring, University of California, Davis and California State University, Sacramento, USA
afloring@ucdavis.edu

Refugee Resettlement in the United StatesFor more information about this book please see our website or contact the Ariel Loring at the address above. If you found this interesting, you might also like Refugee Resettlement in the United States edited by Emily M. Feuerherm and Vaidehi Ramanathan.


Language Policies and (Dis)Citizenship

22 August 2013

Earlier this month we published Language Policies and (Dis)Citizenship edited by Vaidehi Ramanathan. Here Vaidehi tells us a bit more about the book and how she came to write it.

Language Policies and (Dis)CitizenshipThe primary impetus for this edited volume is my growing dissatisfaction with the ways in which the term ‘citizenship’ is being conceptualized and used both by the media and by scholars in the discipline. It seems to me that much discussion ends up in debates about ‘border controls,’ ‘citizenship tests,’ and ‘tighter immigration checks.’ Visas, passports, and securing territories undergird these arguments, and while these are important, missing from the deliberations is the idea that perhaps concerns around refugee resettlements or (illegal) immigration cannot be the object of purely juridical treatment (at legislative or regulatory levels). Perhaps we need to shift our foci to where we begin openly engaging with what is at stake in the articulations and tensions around terms such as ‘citizens’ and ‘citizenship,’ issues that can emerge only through grounded explorations. Certainly, the various essays in this volume prompt us into doing exactly this. Focusing on the backstory behind ‘citizenship’ allows us to zoom in on what citizenship permits, namely access to fuller participation. It also allows us to address (dis)citizenship and local contexts where fuller participation does not happen. This term—(dis)citizenship—is one used by Pothier and Devlin (2006) in their work on disability rights and policies, and while I have drawn on it in my research on disabilities, I find that it fits well in my current thinking about language policies and citizenship. It permits one to ask: What contexts of (dis)citizenship are we blind to? What roles do language policies and pedagogies play?

Because the focus of the volume is on ‘(dis)citizening,’ I wanted it comprised of authors who have known what it is like to not be able to participate fully. Toward this end it seemed fitting to have the contributors be primarily women (there is one male co-author) since women the world over have a historicized understanding of what it is like to not have access to full participation. Furthermore, I was trying to bring several different research domains together to address (dis)citizenship, including scholarship on pedagogies and language policies, and I found as I was making my list of possible contributors that female applied linguists have done some of the best work. (I was surprised to find that we don’t have more volumes made up only of women authors!)

Regarding each of the essays: ‘(Dis)citizening,’ flows thickly as a subtext through each piece. Every essay articulates nuanced language-related political and historical concerns. Each one, in a very different way, addresses larger political questions around modernizing, late modernity, or postcolonial concerns. The authors situate their scholarship in diverse parts of our planet (Zimbabwe, Australia, the UK, and the US, among others) and offer situated accounts about very local contexts (courtrooms, refugee centers, classrooms, teacher-education contexts, heritage centers) that point to the inter-relationality between languages, policies, pedagogies and citizenship. The volume consists of two sections, with the first one addressing issues of challenging and transforming discourses about citizenship (with chapters by Makoni, Matsuda and Chatwara, Feuerherm, Menard-Warwick, Punti and King and McCarty) and the second addressing issues of education, learning and citizenship (with essays by Sagoo, Widin and Yasukawa, Loring, Menken and Henze and Coelho).

This volume is intended to make us see that democracies historically built up through structural inequalities are not abstract categories but ones built up through particular historical processes encased in regimes of power (whether that is power associated with countries, institutions, languages, or pedagogic practices). Citizenship, as we argue, has as much to do with enacting civic citizenship and being active citizens so as to create contexts of fuller participation, as it does with legalities around visas and passports.

For more information on this book please see our website.


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