It has become relatively commonplace to claim that the world is becoming urban. However, it is only relatively recently that the domain of the urban has been considered as an area of study for those concerned with the politics of refugees. This chapter reflects on what is at stake in such work and presents an argument for exploring in more detail how a prosaic reading of the city as an ensemble of authorities, legalisations, and claims can help critical scholarship understand the politics of refugee mobility. Reflecting recent debates over the rescaling of politics, the chapter draws on a concern with ‘seeing like a city’, to argue that an urban perspective may offer a conceptual path to contest the exclusions of the state. Through mobilising this lens, and considering its empirical application in the work of urban sanctuary movements and refugee-led urban activism in the UK, the chapter considers how an urban politics of presence may reposition refugees in relation to authority, rights, and opportunities for belonging.

in Sanctuary cities and urban struggles
Rescaling migration, citizenship, and rights

Recent debates over migration, refuge, and citizenship are challenging the assumed primacy of the nation-state as the key guarantor of rights and entitlements. Sanctuary Cities and Urban Struggles makes the first sustained intervention into exploring how such considerations of citizenship, rights, and mobility are recast when examined from different spatial scales. The collection brings together discussions from across political geography, urban geography, citizenship studies, socio-legal studies, and refugee studies to explore the role of urban social movements, localised practices of belonging and rights claiming, and diverse articulations of sanctuary in reshaping where and how responses to the governance of migration are articulated. Working from the intimate relations of the body and interpersonal accounts of sanctuary, through to strategies for autonomous settlement as part of Europe’s ‘summer of migration’, the collection sets out to challenge the often assumed primacy of the nation-state as the dominant lens through which to understand questions of citizenship and mobility. In its place, Sanctuary Cities and Urban Struggles proposes not a singular alternative, but rather a set of interlocking sites and scales of political practice and imagination, all of which respond to, and variously rework, the governmental demands of the contemporary nation-state. Mixing empirical cases and conceptualisations that move beyond ‘seeing like a state’, this collection will be of interest to geographers, political sociologists, migration scholars, social anthropologists, and urbanists.

Rescaling migration, citizenship, and rights

This chapter introduces the main focus of the book, and discusses a range of current work exploring debates on migration, citizenship, and rights focused on sub-national spatial scales, including the urban, the neighbourhood, and the spaces of everyday life. The introduction thus examines some of the ways in which migration is experienced, politicised, and policed when framed as a concern for cities, communities, and everyday life, rather than purely for the policies, rhetoric, and imaginaries of the nation-state. The chapter works through three key bodies of work to explore this rescaling process and to set the framework for the rest of the collection: first, the increasing devolution of mechanisms of security and border enforcement to local levels, and to cities in particular, suggesting a growing governance of migration at the urban level; second, the growth of sanctuary movements across the Global North, from social movements and campaigns to the legal establishment of sanctuary cities; and third, the connections between cities and forms of irregular migrant activism that seek to contest the boundaries and nature of citizenship. In exploring these areas of recent debate, the introduction establishes the context for the collection’s two main parts – sanctuary cities and urban struggles.

in Sanctuary cities and urban struggles