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Contesting Citizenship

Contesting Citizenship: Irregular Migrants and New Frontiers of the Political

Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    Contesting Citizenship
    Book Description:

    Irregular migrants complicate the boundaries of citizenship and stretch the parameters of political belonging. Comprised of refugees, asylum seekers, "illegal" labor migrants, and stateless persons, this group of migrants occupies new sovereign spaces that generate new subjectivities. Investigating the role of irregular migrants in the transformation of citizenship, Anne McNevin argues that irregular status is an immanent (rather than aberrant) condition of global capitalism, formed by the fast-tracked processes of globalization.

    McNevin casts irregular migrants as more than mere victims of sovereign power, shuttled from one location to the next. Incorporating examples from the United States, Australia, and France, she shows how migrants reject their position as "illegal" outsiders and make claims on the communities in which they live and work. For these migrants, outsider status operates as both a mode of subjectification and as a site of active resistance, forcing observers to rethink the enactment of citizenship. McNevin connects irregular migrant activism to the complex rescaling of the neoliberal state. States increasingly prioritize transnational market relations that disrupt the spatial context for citizenship. At the same time, states police their borders in ways that reinvigorate territorial identities. Mapping the broad dynamics of political belonging in a neoliberal era, McNevin provides invaluable insight into the social and spatial transformation of citizenship, sovereignty, and power.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-52224-3
    Subjects: Political Science, Law

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-xii)
    (pp. 1-10)

    In 2008, Alejandro was studying nursing at a college in Los Angeles, where he had lived for the past seven years. He also worked as a marketer for a private ambulance company. Originally from the Philippines, Alejandro believed that after seven years working and paying taxes, he now had the right to have a say in how his adopted country should be governed. He felt that eight years of the George W. Bush administration had run the economy down and driven too many jobs offshore. He was also aware that presidential nominee Barack Obama had spoken in favor of comprehensive...

    (pp. 11-39)

    This chapter begins with a story about the limits of the possible in a journey toward political belonging. Imagine a Palestinian refugee living in Kuwait in the years after the first Gulf War. Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has publicly supported Saddam Hussein’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait. Palestinians in Kuwait have thus attained a kind of enemy status. Many are forced to leave Kuwait, some are interned, and those who remain are subject to assault and humiliation. A young man of twenty, called Asif, is forced into hiding and manages to get by working as a mechanic. One day Asif is...

  6. 2 THE GLOBALIZING STATE: Remaking Sovereignty and Citizenship
    (pp. 40-67)

    As states open their borders to global market forces, they also open their borders to flows of migrant labor. Young Indian information technology (IT) workers, for example, are increasingly on the move. For some highly trained software engineers, a shortage of skilled professionals in the United States, Germany, and elsewhere provide them with a foothold into some of the world’s leading financial and high-tech centers. In those places, some will generate the kinds of contacts and income that feed wider aspirations for a self-made transnational lifestyle that the “knowledge industry” affords. Many other aspiring workers are recruited by South Asian...

  7. 3 POLICING AUSTRALIA’S BORDERS: New Terrains of Sovereign Practice
    (pp. 68-92)

    Aamer Sultan, an Iraqi doctor and asylum seeker, made this statement from Sydney’s Villawood Immigration Detention Centre in 2001. At that time, Sultan was one of hundreds of asylum seekers detained in cities and remote locations, behind barbed-wire fences and security screening processes designed to hinder public access. Sultan’s statement captures a dimension of border policing against asylum seekers and others that is not always readily acknowledged. Border policing can be understood, at the most obvious level, as controlling access to territory. However, it also entails the legal and symbolic ordering of citizens and aliens. This aspect of border policing...

  8. 4 ACTS OF CONTESTATION: The Sans-Papiers of France
    (pp. 93-117)

    On March 18, 1996, some 324 irregular migrants occupied the Church of Saint-Ambroise in Paris, calling themselves the Sans-Papiers (literally “Without Papers”). Some of the Sans-Papiers were asylum seekers, and some were long-term working residents of France whose status had been made irregular as a result of recent legislative changes. This initial action prompted collectives of Sans-Papiers to organize across the country and was followed by further church occupations, hunger strikes, demonstrations, and petitions. The Sans-Papiers demanded the right to stay in France with regularized status. They rejected the illegality with which they had been charged and insisted on the...

  9. 5 FROM CITY TO CITIZEN: Modes of Belonging in the United States
    (pp. 118-145)

    An excerpt from Alan Weisman’s La Frontera captures a moment on the U.S.–Mexico border some twenty-five years ago:

    Alan Eliason, the tall, ruddy chief of the San Diego sector of the Border Patrol, has spent the morning reading a study just released by the Rand Corporation, which concludes that Mexican immigration does not pose a crisis for California. Rather it states that the influx has “provided strong economic benefits” and that the undocumented immigrants’ “use of public services is not generally a problem.”

    Eliason has heard this before. He has also heard the scholarly theories that most aliens prefer...

  10. CONCLUSION: Contentious Spaces of Political Belonging
    (pp. 146-156)

    In May 2009, I met a group of women in the northern suburbs of Los Angeles who were members of a business cooperative: Magic Cleaners. The cooperative was a limited liability company formed under California law and an economic development project of a local worker center. The women, all from Mexico, were equal owners in the business, and income earned was split after operating costs had been covered. Members thus avoided paying high commissions for agency placements and could independently negotiate the clients they did business with and the conditions under which they worked. Those involved had previously suffered from...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 157-192)
    (pp. 193-218)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 219-224)