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Citizenship Policy: From Paper to Practice: Global Perspectives on the Implementation Gap

Edited by Luicy Pedroza and Jean-Thomas Arrighi

In comparative migration studies, the “implementation gap” has become a shorthand to designate a range of phenomena having little in common other than a discrepancy between policy outputs and outcomes, the law in books and in action, stated aims and practices. Alternately referring to normative dissonance between primary and secondary legislation, administrative incoherence across levels or spheres of government, the state’s lack of infrastructural power, the discretionary power of street-level bureaucrats, or the discriminatory implementation of nominally non- discriminatory policies, the concept has been considerably overstretched. In addition, it has suffered from a pervasive normative bias, as instances of administrative room for discretion and interpretation can be positively associated with flexibility, adaptability and creativity in Northern contexts, but tend to be negatively linked to corruption, discrimination, institutional weakness, populism and arbitrariness when observed in or for the Global South. The twin tendency of conceptual overstretching and moral prejudice has been particularly detrimental to comparative scholars, especially to those seeking to transcend the North-South divide permeating the field. With few exceptions, even the most ambitious and broad comparative projects on migration and citizenship regimes have shied away from the study of implementation, leaving it to country or area specialists. Thus, pinning down implementation is not only important for the study of migration policy; it constitutes a challenge for comparative migration studies, which this Special Issue intends to shed light on and to tackle.

The aim of this Special Issue is to bring conceptual clarity and empirically grounded theoretical arguments to existing scholarship on the discrepancy between policies on paper and in practice in migration studies, with a global perspective. It stands out in three ways. First, the comparative scope transcends the North-South divide. Instead of assuming a normative incommensurability between two ill-defined and normatively charged areas by focusing on either one or the other, it encompasses and compares cases located in both. By doing so, it advances a comparative agenda that neither a priori privileges differences over similarities across world regions, nor entertains the idea of a neat delineation between two internally homogenous and mutually exclusive global areas. Second, combines interdisciplinarity with thematic coherence. With twelve scholars from the disciplines of law, sociology, political science, anthropology and history, the Special Issue includes eight articles (besides the Introduction by the editors) that all tackle a specific theoretical aspect and empirical instance of an implementation gap. They all deal with the realm of citizenship policy, which captures the regulation of residents’ legal status, the bundle of rights associated with that status, and nationality. Third, it tackles a fundamental conceptual issue which spans academic fields –with a generic and deeper anchor in the literatures on public policy and governance- yet remains under-theorised.

  1. Since the late 1990s and early 2000s, in what can be called an ‘integrationist wave’, standardised integration requirements for naturalisation have become increasingly common in Europe. To examine the impact o...

    Authors: Djordje Sredanovic
    Citation: Comparative Migration Studies 2024 12:33