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Citizens and Citizenship

The Rhetoric of Dutch Immigrant Integration Policy in 2011

Dana Rem and Des Gasper

Keywords: citizenship; communitarianism; immigrant integration; national identity; neoliberalism; population categories formation; social exclusion

The past generation has seen a switch to restrictive policies and language in the governance of migrants living in the Netherlands. Beginning in 2010, a new government with right-wing populist backing went further, declaring the centrality of proposed characteristic historic Dutch values. In this article, we investigate a key policy document to characterize and understand this policy change. Discourse analysis as an exploration of language choices, including use of ideas from rhetoric, helps us apply and test ideas from governmentality studies of migration and from discourse studies as social theorizing. We trace the chosen problem formulation; the delineation, naming, and predication of population categories; the understanding of citizenship, community, and integration; and the overall rhetoric, including chosen metaphors and nuancing of emphases, that links the elements into a meaning-rich world picture. A “neoliberal communitarian” conception of citizenship has emerged that could unfortunately subject many immigrants to marginalization and exclusion.

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