Monday, 6 March 2017

The psychic life of policy: Desire, anxiety and ‘citizenisation’ in Britain

an article by Anne-Marie Fortier (Lancaster University, England) published in Critical Social Policy Volume 37 Issue 1 (2017)


This article empirically grounds the ‘psychic life of power’ (Butler, 1997) by demonstrating the psychic form that power takes as immigrants or agents of the state make their way through the British ‘citizenisation’ policy – i.e. the ‘integration’ policy that requires noncitizens to acquire ‘citizen-like’ skills and values in view of seeking citizenship or other statuses (e.g. settlement).

The framing argument is that an ambivalent relationship between desire and anxiety mediates the state-citizen relationship (following Honig, 2001). Taking this argument further, the article offers an in-depth analysis of how citizenisation policy’s frames of desire (the assumed desirability of citizenship and the desire for desirable citizens) also take the form of anxieties.

Drawing on a multi-sited study of citizenisation in Britain, the article explores some of the different forms anxiety takes: fetishisation, enervation, and uncertainty. The analysis reveals how the uneven distribution of anxiety between agents of the state and immigrants not only mediates the state–citizen relationship but also variously enacts the state itself.

Attending to the psychosocial dynamics of citizenisation reveals how hierarchies are (re)produced not only discursively and materially, but also through different ‘anxious states’.

Full Text (PDF)

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