Other topics

UNIC. Unexpected Inclusion: Migration, Mobility and the Open City (session 1 of 2)

June 30, 2021 9:00
June 30, 2021 10:30

Sandro Cattacin, Université de Genève


Sandro Cattacin (IRS, Université de Genève)

Nerea Viana Alzola (IRS, Université de Genève)

Andrea Rea (Group for Research on Ethnic Relations, Migrations & Equality, Libre Université de Bruxelles); Antoine Roblain (Center for Social and Cultiral psychology, Université libre de Bruxelles)

Fiorenza Gamba (IRS, Université de Genève and Università di Sassari)

The everyday work of producing (personal and collective) identities in cities (heterogeneous places by definition) is also the everyday work of reinventing a territory as a common place of belonging, as a place of social justice. We believe that welcome groups, migrant associations and in particular urban rituals are essential in producing temporary, inclusive commons that may be prototypes of more enduring forms of belonging and social justice. At the centre of our proposed panel is the discussion of the open city as place where complex identities in everyday reality are able to find a common ground, a sensus communis. Given the realities of our mobile societies, we consider migrant associations, welcome groups and rituals as crucial phenomena in this respect, since they require participation but not necessarily much formalised affiliation. 

The panel’s main objective is to discuss and analyse, through concrete exemples, self-organised migrant associations, independent civil society initiatives and established ritualised practices of inclusion in the city that occur outside formal migration and integration policies and that improve social justice, dynamics of belonging, exchange, cooperation, interactions and peaceful coexistence between the established and newcomers. From our inclusionist perspective on the city visions are needed on the way in which the city as an inclusion machine works on the ground in everyday activities that connect rather than separates newcomers and the established. Our panel focuses on dynamics in urban spaces that can be seen as a type of “commons” producing inclusion and/or exclusion. Our panel provide insights for all kind of cities in search of inclusive practices through which belonging can be created. Scientifically, we will present insights on inclusion dynamics, and contribute to the growing critiques of traditional migration and “integration” studies. Focalizing on inclusion dynamics as fundamental elements for social justice, all presentations will be based on empirical research. The following contributions are planed:

Shanon Damery, Alice Clarebout (Université de Liège): Migrant associations and inclusion Bob White (tbc; Université de Montréal): Producing History to Create Urban Belonging and Inclusion Nerea Viana Alzola (Université de Genève). Exclusion and Inclusion of Differences in Urban Japan Marco Martiniello, Alissa Raziano (Université de Liège): Inclusion and the Anchored Cosmopolitism in the Fair City Fiorenza Gamba (Universities of Geneva and Sassari): Urban Rituals as Commons Andrea Rea (tbc, Université libre de Bruxelles): Spontaneous welcome groups in the urban context Sandro Cattacin (Université de Genève): Sanctuary Cities, Differentiated Citizenship and Social Justice

Keywords: Inclusion/Exclusion;  Migration; Mobility, Refugees; Urban dynamics; Rituals; Migrant Associations; Civil Society Organizations

Sanctuary Cities, Differentiated Citizenship and Social Justice

Sandro Cattacin, IRS, Université de Genève

Contemporary “sanctuary cities” are places that have decided, on a political level, to provide refuge to undocumented migrants and refugees without pursuing them for infractions linked to their migrant status ((Lippert & Rehaag, 2012)). This movement began in the US and spread first to Canada and the UK, and then to Continental Europe. The main reason cities declare themselves as sanctuaries is related to continuous conflicts between the local and the national or federal police authorities in the application of laws related to migration and residence. Governments of cities, places where people without residency permits live and invest, have chosen to resolve the ambiguity between legality and belonging by privileging cities’ interest in defending the people who live there, creating safe spaces in their territory (Ridgley, 2008).

Although following the concept of sanctuary cities does not produce a clear-cut policy (Bauder, 2017), the places adhering to this policy share some elements in common. In particular, they do not persecute people without a legal residence status, provided those people break no other laws; they provide basic services for these people following the human rights perspective: access to health, schools and social services; and they engage in anti-discrimination activities in order to promote social, economic and political inclusion of undocumented residents.

To live in a sanctuary city is to enter a world of negotiated and partial rights that are sufficient to live with dignity. These rights are relatively stable, and they persist even through changes in city government. The stability derives from the narrative sanctuary cities offer to explain their decision to join this movement. Indeed, participating in this movement permits city governments to tell a history of inclusion, a message that goes much further than talking about undocumented migration. A good example is the statement by Chicago’s then mayor, Rahm Emanuel, regarding Chicago’s adoption of the Welcoming City ordinance: “This Welcoming City ordinance will make Chicago a national leader in welcoming those who play by the rules, contribute to our economy and help make Chicago the incredible city that was envisioned by its first immigrant settlers“ (Mayor’s Press Office, 2012: 1). Emanuel clearly linked Chicago’s origins and its contemporary policies, and in doing so linked national leadership, an openness to differences (useful for the economy) and the sanctuary cities movement. The presentation will discuss critically the establishment and the practice of this movement.

Keywords: Inclusion Policies, Undocumented Migrants, Sanctuary City, Urban Citizenship

Sandro Cattacin is professor of sociology at the University of Geneva and director of the Institute for sociological research. His main fields of research are urban studies with a particular interest for inclusion and exclusion dynamics.

Bauder, H. (2017). Sanctuary Cities: Policies and Practices in International Perspective. International Migration, 55(2), 174-187. doi:10.1111/imig.12308

Lippert, R., & Rehaag, S. (2012). Introduction: Sanctuary across countries, institutions, and disciplines. In R. K. Lippert & S. Rehaag (Eds.), Sanctuary Practices in International Perspectives (pp. 19-30). N.Y.: Routledge.

Mayor’s Press Office. (2012). Mayor Emanuel introduces Welcoming City Ordinance. Ensure Trust And Good Relationships Between Chicago’s Immigrant Communities, Regardless Of Immigration Status [Press release]

Ridgley, J. (2008). Cities of Refuge: Immigration Enforcement, Police, and the Insurgent Genealogies of Citizenship in U.S. Sanctuary Cities. Urban Geography, 29(1), 53-77. doi:10.2747/0272-3638.29.1.53

Urban Japan's exclusion and inclusion dynamics in times of uncertainty. The case of Hamamatsu City

Nerea Viana Alzola (IRS, Université de Genève)

Japan's ageing population and low birth rate generated an extensive debate about implementing a more liberal "immigration" policy. This discussion resulted in the National Diet's approval of the Revised Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act in December 2018. The revision was proposed as a solution to the two phenomena mentioned above and the labour shortage. However, even though the act came into effect in April 2019, it seems that many people in Japan still oppose immigration as they deem it a threat to public safety and stability. Moreover, the Covid-19 outbreak appears to have amplified these feelings and started a kind of witch-hunt in Japan and other countries. In many cases, foreign communities have been blamed for spreading the virus. 

In this framework, the measures at the national level appear to be insufficient to address these issues. The Japanese government has been heavily criticised for its miscommunication and behaviour towards foreigners residing in Japan during the pandemic. However, little has been written about Japanese urban contexts. What measures did local communities take towards foreigners during the outbreak? This research aims to shed light on the dynamics of inclusion and exclusion in Japanese urban contexts during the Covid-19 health crisis. In particular, Hamamatsu City's case was analysed through a socio-anthropological approach and a qualitative content analysis of relevant sources. In this perspective, at the conference, I will highlight the challenges posed by the crisis in the urban community of Hamamatsu and the partnerships established to foster the inclusion of foreign residents. 

Keywords: Exclusion/Inclusion, Urban Japan, Cities, Covid-19, Uncertainty

Nerea Viana Alzola is a PhD candidate in Urban Sociology at the University of Geneva. She is currently working on the research project Unexpected Inclusions: Migration, Mobilities and The Open City (UNIC). Her research's main focus is the inclusive communities in the cities of Geneva, Switzerland, and Hamamatsu, Japan.

Citizen’s initiative for refugees: the case of Belgium 

Andrea Rea (Group for Research on Ethnic Relations, Migrations & Equality, Libre Université de Bruxelles); Antoine Roblain (Center for Social and Cultiral psychology, Université libre de Bruxelles)

As in many European countries, Belgium has faced since 2015 the arrival of refugees coming from Middle Eastern countries. Their reception has led European societies to shape polarized opinions and mobilizations. The paper analyzes a citizen's initiative, Citizens’ Platform for refugees that was born in 2015. This citizens’ initiative aims to supplement the failings (perceived or real) of Belgian reception and integration institutions. One of the main action of citizens involved in this mobilization was to provide accommodation for refugees or “transmigrants”  who didn’t receive from Belgian institutions a shelter. Routed in an emotional reaction, this kind of mobilization and initiative could be defined as a political or a humanitarian action?

Keywords: Migration, Refugues, Social movements, Social and Political Mobilization, Humanitarism Action

Andrea Rea is Full professor in sociology at Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB), Andrea Rea founded and is a member of the research centre Group for studies on Ethnic Relations, Migrations and Equality (GERME). His research focuses on migration studies, in Brussels and Belgium. He also works together with the Universities of Geneva and Montreal. Since 2018, he is the President of the Press.

Antoine Roblain is Post-doctoral Research Associate at the Center for Social and Cultural Psychology (CeSCuP) and at the Institute for European Studies (IEE), Free University of Brussels, Belgium. He holds a Ph.D in Social Psychology. In 2018-2019, he held the position of Junior Lecturer at the University of Lausanne. His current research interests include life trajectories and sociocultural adaptation of immigrant newcomers, and psychological processes underlying intergroup and inter-minority solidarity with migrants.

Urban Rituals as Commons : The Iftar Street meal in the San Salvario’ Neighbourhood in Turin

Fiorenza Gamba (IRS, Université de Genève and Università di Sassari)

Rituals of territorial inclusion solicit a sense of belonging to a place, which does not automatically imply a more generalized sense of belonging to a group. Nevertheless, all forms of the differences that are found in the rituals are cut out and brought together by the rituals, in new configurations. This becomes an antidote to the rise of identity drives which override the mediating function of otherness and work to transform the other into an enemy (Augé 1994). Moreover, these recompositions can also stimulate a more structured sense of belonging, which can extend to civic participation, to life and to the protection of the place, the territory, so that the urban ritual becomes a commons for the participants in a public space, which belongs to and includes everyone. In fact, urban rituals are real products of a cultural creativity which goes beyond the dichotomy between we/others, and which emphasizes a set of differences in its place, in a continuum of variations and similarities (Favole 2012), starting from a condition of openness, which can develop into more articulated forms of inclusion, of an idea, a narrative, a group, as well as of participation, for example civic participation. In this sense then, the ritual, because of the combination of its elements, plays the role of a schema that links individuals to place and, as a reflection, individuals to each other through the place. Thus, the ritual is a scheme of action in which elements of invention, variation, and intensity can be incorporated, both at the objective level of its structure and at the subjective level of participation (Sennett, 2012). Consequently, these rituals centred on a place produce a flexible link, which is constituted without obligation, but only by adhesion, and can be both temporary and permanent, and also transversal to political, identity or religious affiliations. An example of this transversality is the IftarStreet in the San Salvario’ neighbourhood in Turin. An event that shows the inclusion of differences in one of the most delicate field usually associated with the idea of fundamentalism, namely the field of religious differences. In fact, the IftarStreet is the breaking of the fast of Ramadan at sunset, celebrated with a meal by the Muslims of the neighbourhood, in which all the other inhabitants, of all religions, of the San Salvario’ neighbourhood and of the city of Turin in general, are invited to participate spontaneously. On this occasion, a very long table is set up in the streets of the district from the mosque to the catholic church to accommodate up to two thousand people. In this case, religion is no longer a strongly exclusive element of identity affirmation, but becomes a field for the inclusion of differences and is considered by the inhabitants as a real commons able to create belonging in the neighbourhood.

The presentation aims to analyze the symbolic and practical elements of the constitution of this ritual as a commons.

Keywords: Urban Rituals, Inclusion, Belonging, Commons, IftarStreet Meal  

Fiorenza Gamba is a researcher at the IRS (Institute for Sociological Research) of the University of Geneva and associate professor of Sociology of Culture and Communication at the Disea of the University of Sassari.

Her research, situated between sociology anthropology and communication, focuses on Urban and Mobilities Studies: city and mobility; city and creativity; urban rituals; imaginary city; and on Digital Death: contemporary representations of death and immortality, including mourning, digital commemoration rituals and their ethical issues. Image, memory and the body are also part of her research interests.