University of Jyväskylä

Dissertation: The Politics of Citizenship Tests (Björk)

Start date: Dec 16, 2011 12:00 PM

End date: Dec 16, 2011 03:00 PM

Location: Seminaarinmäki, JT120, Juomatehdas

Anna BjörkM.Soc.Sc. Anna Björk defends her doctoral dissertation titled “The Politics of Citizenship Tests”. Opponent Research Director Helge Jordheim (University of Oslo) and custos Academy Professor Kari Palonen.


The study examines how the dynamics of the polity play out in debates on citizenship tests with a special focus on the concept of integration. Whereas citizenship tests as a phenomenon form the overall framework for the research, the detailed analysis is focused on the state parliaments of Hesse, primarily, and Bavaria, where the possibility of introducing such a test was introduced in spring 2006. These cases are of importance because of the effect they had on the issue on the federal level: prompted by the provocative questionnaire of Baden-Württemberg at the end of 2005, the initiatives of these states, especially Hesse, mainstreamed the debate and invoked enough enthusiasm for turning the testing practice into a federal option. In 2008, Germany launched the official test for the whole federation, which unified the practices for naturalisation procedures in the country.

The conceptual background for these cases is linked to the history of Staatsangehörigkeit as a legal institution in Germany, most notably to the legislative reformation of 1913. Central issues in the contemporary debates, such as the avoidance of dual citizenship, the principle of jus sanguinis and the link between loyalty and citizenship were already debated in Kaiserreich. Furthermore, the more recent topics of Berufsverbot, Verfassungspatriotismus and Leitkultur, play their roles as references and clarifications for the party political dynamics visible in the debates.

Despite the brief considerations on the historical debates and institutional developments, the main focus remains in the ongoing and vivid academic debate on the citizenship testing practice. The distinct approach toward the primary material constructed from the Hessian and Bavarian debates is temporality. This means that time is considered as an important resource of doing politics, especially when the issues at stake explicitly regard national images.  The empirical analysis of the debates in the Länder is thus conducted as a temporal reading of political rhetoric, out of which three central temporal figures are constructed. These three, i.e. stability, breakage and becoming are then implemented into another level of analysis, in which the concept of integration is given a more specific reading as a relational concept linking the polities of citizens, non-citizens and the state, utilising another temporal apparatus of the polit-vocabulary. The conclusive discussion concerns the role of the tests in relation to these polities and the nation building mechanisms in temporal terms.

Keywords:  Citizenship tests, integration, time, temporality, rhetoric, Germany

Further information: 

Anna Björk, tel. 044-50 85 404,

The dissertation is published in the series Jyväskylä Studies in Education, Psychology, and Social Research. Inquiries: University Library, Publishing Unit, tel. 040 805 3825,  

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