Affective citizenship in Brexit Britain: EU citizens’ responses to emotional governance

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Brexit has exacerbated the importance of understanding the affective dimension of citizenship for EU citizens residing in the southeast of England after the UK’s 2016 referendum on membership of the EU. The state’s emotional governance, manifested in citizenship policies and the naturalisation process, reveals a complex understanding of belonging and exclusion in the context of intra-EU mobility. In this essay I focus on how naturalisation requirements establish the emotions that new citizens should feel and the impact this has on their representation of citizenship. This analysis focuses on three out of thirty-four semi-structured interviews conducted in 2017 with EU citizens at different stages of the naturalisation process. Findings show that the political context emphasises the emotional elements of naturalisation in a context of political instability. I conclude that participants’ accounts reveal their resistance to the way the state attempts to govern through emotions. This resistance serves as an indicator of emotional governance in Brexit Britain.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)296-313
JournalEmotions: History, Culture, Society
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2 Dec 2022


  • Affective citizenship
  • EU citizens
  • Brexit
  • Naturalisation
  • Emotional governance

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