The (in)significance of citizenship in white British citizens’ narratives of national belonging

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This paper investigates the relationship between citizenship and belonging through empirical analysis of citizens’ narratives. Specifically, through analysis of interview narratives produced with twenty-six white British citizens, the paper explores whether/how citizenship is recognised as a basis for national membership by those for whom citizenship and national belonging are largely taken for granted. In doing so, the paper sheds new light on the meaning and significance of citizenship within informal economies of national belonging and draws critical attention to the role of discursive recognition in sustaining hierarchies of belonging. The paper finds that formal status has limited significance as a practical marker of belonging and that, even where citizenship is constructed as significant, its significance is often undermined. It concludes that citizenship on its own is insufficient to guarantee substantive national belonging in the sense of being recognised and included as belonging to a national community and does not necessarily legitimise more ambiguous claims to national belonging.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Ethnic and Migration Studies
Publication statusPublished - 15 Sept 2021


  • Citizenship
  • belonging
  • Britishness
  • nationhood
  • racialised hierarchies


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