'Multicultural Citizenship for the Highly Skilled? Naturalization, Human Capital, and the Boundaries of Belonging in Canada’s Middle-Class Nation-building'

3 December 2020, 5.00 PM - 3 December 2020, 6.30 PM

Elke Winter

Taking Canada as a widely envied and imitated example of liberal, “difference-blind” economic immigration, in this paper, I examine the permeability, constraints, and symbolic meaning of the different requirements of the naturalization process from the perspective of those who have undergone the process. Based on interviews with recently naturalized Canadians, my study reveals that the three steps of the application process – filing the application, studying the citizenship guide and sitting the test, attending the citizenship ceremony and swearing the citizenship oath – constitute mostly blurred boundaries for skilled and highly educated immigrants, with occasional boundaries related to management flaws, classed naturalization, and cultural biases. Specifically, immigrants endowed with valued forms of human capital are naturalizing fast and easily even if they are members of racial, ethnic or religious minorities. This underscores the strength of multiculturalism as national identity and ethos of societal integration. However, the attainment of citizenship in the multicultural nation does not come quasi-automatically as a right for everyone after years of lawful residency. Rather, it is granted as an earned privilege only to those who demonstrate the successful mastery of the skills and mindset of middle-class professionals. Since naturalization now operates along the same econocentric logic that governs immigrant selection through the points system, individuals admitted through non-economic streams, such as refugees and immigrants in the family class are increasingly struggling with the naturalization process. This raises questions about the implicit biases and new fault lines of seemingly difference-blind middle-class nation-building through immigration.



The recording of the talk can be viewed on the Centre's YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CO7v3msfu8I&t=4723s

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