Kamran KhanMar 23, 2021
Becoming a Citizen
Linguistic Trials and Negotiations in the UK
Bloomsbury Academic 2019
Citizenship is acquired and constructed through various mechanisms, including language tests, that require individuals to demonstrate a sufficient national identity. For some recent migrants, acquiring citizenship and passing rigorous language testing still is not enough to feel like they belong. Becoming a Citizen: Linguistic Trials and Negotiations in the UK (Bloomsbury Academic Press, 2019) provides valuable context for how language and sociolinguistics impacts citizenship in both official and unofficial ways.
Kamran Khan, a sociolinguist at Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, explores the process of acquiring UK citizenship and investigates how the naturalisation process is experienced, with an explicit focus on language practices. This ethnographically-informed study focuses on W, a Yemeni immigrant in the UK, during the final phase of the citizenship process. In this time, he encounters linguistic trials and tests involving the Life in the UK citizenship test, community life, ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages), adult education and the citizenship ceremony. The richness of linguistic data featured in this book allows for a nuanced portrayal of the complexities of becoming a citizen. This is especially so in the context of the UK's assimilationist form of citizenship which is reflected in the introduction of a citizenship test within a broader socio-political climate.
Becoming a Citizen offers a detailed analysis of the linguistic process of naturalisation in the UK and is relevant to scholars working in sociolinguistics, language policy, migration studies and ethnographic research.
Nafeesa Andrabi is a 4th year Sociology PhD student at UNC-Chapel Hill, a Biosocial Fellow at Carolina Population Center and a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow.