Kristina Bakkær Simonsen

Do They Belong? Host National Boundary Drawing and Immigrants’ Identificational Integration

Do the ways in which nations define ‘us’ and ‘them’ matter for the degree to which immigrants feel part of their new society, and if so, how? The dissertation investigates this question by studying the effects of host national boundary drawing on immigrants’ sense of national belonging. Theoretically, the dissertation contributes to the literature in the field by developing a model that explicates the process through which immigrants should be affected by the host nation’s boundaries, placing particular emphasis on immigrants’ boundary perceptions as the crucial link. The steps in this model are examined in four empirical articles, using quantitative and qualitative data and methods. Empirically, the dissertation sheds light on the types of boundaries that matter for immigrants’ belonging. In particular, it shows that immigrants are affected by the informal boundaries drawn by host populations and in political rhetoric but not by the formal boundaries drawn through citizenship policy. In addition, through inductive analysis of in-depth interviews, the dissertation contributes to nuancing the very concept of belonging, strengthening our understanding of how it is constructed, affected and challenged in boundary processes. In synthesis, the dissertation gives a nuanced account of the links between boundaries and belonging and attests to the dimensions of power involved in constraining and claiming national membership in contemporary Western societies. The dissertation will be of interest to anyone concerned with one of the greatest challenges of our time: how to integrate new citizens into established national communities. 

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