The Value of Nation

Bureaucratic Practices and the Lived Experience in the French Naturalization Process

in French Politics, Culture & Society
Sarah Mazouz CNRS (CERAPS)

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Drawing on ethnographical observations made in the Naturalization Office of a prefecture of the Paris region, and on interviews carried out with bureaucrats and French citizens who have been naturalized, this article examines both the institutional process of granting citizenship as well as its impact on subjectivities. It investigates the assumptions and broad judgments that underlie the granting of French citizenship to see how norms and values linked to this procedure circulate between bureaucrats and applicants. It focuses on the idea of “deservingness,” linked to the act of being granted French citizenship, to determine how bureaucrats from the Naturalization Office and French naturalized citizens differently appropriate this notion. By addressing the articulated difference between bureaucratic practice and lived experience, this article aims to highlight the political, moral, and ethical dimensions at stake in the procedure of making foreigners into French citizens.

Contributor Notes

Sarah Mazouz is a permanent researcher at the CNRS (CERAPS). Her main research topics are antidiscrimination policies in France and citizenship politics in France and Germany. Her work is rooted in ethnography. It also draws from Critical Race Studies, Legal Consciousness Studies, and Critical Anthropology of Morals as well as the sociology of public policies. She is the author of La République et ses autres: Politiques de l'altérité dans la France des années 2000 (2017) and the co-author of At the Heart of the State: The Moral World of Institutions (2015). Email:

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