Power and examination: A critique of citizenship tests

Oded Löwenheim*, Orit Gazit

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


Terror threats and fear of ethnic and religious outbursts, combined with the aspirations of governments to better integrate immigrants into society, have led a growing number of Western states to adopt the practice of citizenship tests as a prerequisite for full citizenship. These tests require the immigrant, usually of non-Western origin, to demonstrate advanced language skills as well as comprehensive civic and cultural knowledge of the host society. While existing literature focuses either on internal inconsistencies within civic integration policies or on the models of citizenship reflected in the exams, the present article offers a critical and power-centered approach to the subject. Using a Foucauldian perspective, we analyze the tests as a sign of authority, a technology of naturalizing authority, and a disciplinary tool. This study joins a growing body of literature on the concept of governmentality, putting the spotlight on the 'microphysics of power', specifically at borders and liminal points where the state's presence is prominent.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)145-167
Number of pages23
JournalSecurity Dialogue
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2009


  • Citizenship
  • Examination
  • Foucault
  • Governmentality
  • Immigration
  • Power
  • Test


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