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Challenging the Political Beyond and Across Borders: Possibilities and Tensions of Migrants’ and Solidarity Struggles

The CEU Campus
Thursday, November 17, 2016, 9:00 am – Friday, November 18, 2016, 9:00 am

This workshop is co-organised by the Center for Policy Studies, the Department of Sociology & Social Anthropology, the Doctoral School of Political Science, Public Policy and International Relations, and the Department of Gender Studies at CEU

November 17-18, 2016, CEU, Oktober 6 / 7, room 102

This workshop aims at critically engaging with migration scholarship and challenging dehistoricizing and depoliticizing discourses of ‘migration crisis’. It sets out to develop collective reflections on mobility regimes and on migrants as political actors in relation to migration-related politics and beyond. It is particularly interested in migrants’ struggles as connected to other realms of contentious political and economic activities and within broader historical contexts. It also wishes to explore the possibilities, tensions and limitations enacted by migrant solidarity and joint struggles, and their potential to efficiently contest dominant representations of migrants and mobility.

In recent years, scholarly studies focusing on migrant struggles and particularly on the way in which migrants resist and subvert increasingly marginalizing immigration and border policies have burgeoned. This development mirrors the upsurge in political mobilization of refugees, illegalized migrants and solidarity activists across the world. From the European Union and its borders to the North American and Australian contexts but also, and importantly, countries of the Global South, collective actions by and in support of refugees and migrants have multiplied and adopted a variety of forms including marches, workers and hunger strikes and occupations. This has been heralded by critical migration studies scholars as the advent of new forms of being political, where migrants, due to the challenge they pose to the territorial-bounded conception of politics, open space for politics that are no more defined in relation to the state-nation-citizen nexus.

The recent migratory movements due, but not limited to, war in Syria have been represented in the media, political, activist and scholarly debate as a crisis. The deployment of a discourse of crisis by states as well as at times solidarity and humanitarian actors has produced representations of migrants’ mobility as exceptional and has called for emergency interventions. In doing so, it has contributed to the depoliticization and dehistoricization of people’s mobility. While exclusionary discourses have dominated the debate, there has also been a substantial amount of solidarity initiatives ranging from providing material support to people on the move to engaging in civil disobedience by facilitating migrant movement across borders. Exclusionary discourses coupled with calls for solidarity have highlighted tensions, contradictions but also continuities within the transit and host societies and brought questions regarding the right to mobility, the production and contestation of political norms, the possibility for non-state centric understandings of political actors and the possibilities and prospects of solidarity to the heart of debates around migration. To what extent have solidarity acts challenged, disrupted and/or confirmed the dominant representations of migrants and migration?

This workshop sets out to go beyond recent discourses of migration crisis and related debates in order to reflect collectively on migrants as political actors both in relation to migration related politics and beyond, particularly in relation to other realms of contentious political and economic struggles. It also aims at challenging dehistoricizing narratives of migration and calls for interpreting current migration movements in relation to the history of migration and as a response to geopolitical and economic processes. We set out to explore the political role and implication of migrants beyond their categorisation as migrants and beyond seeing their struggles as temporal, and through their involvement in a range of other political and social movements. This allows questioning both depoliticising policy perspectives focusing on migrants as victims in need of assistance or threats in need of containment as well as scholarship approaching migrant struggles only from the perspective of border and migration related activities. We therefore welcome presentations that examine different aspects of migrants’ contentious practices, as well as the limits of migrant and solidarity political actions, within or in relation to broader contexts.