Towards a sociology of everyday statelessness

In the first weeks at the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies (EUI) I’m finalising an article for a special issue on ‘Markers of Identity’ linked to the Oxford Diasporas Programme and its sister programme at the University of Leicester. The article draws on the work I have done for the ‘Stateless Diasporas in the EU’ project with Dr Elena Fiddian Qasmiyeh and Dr Barzoo Eliassi. I’ve presented a draft version of the paper last June in Oxford and was very well received. I’ve now sent the manuscript to the editors, Professor Joanna Story and Dr Iain Walker, that have waited patiently (despite the deadline had passed a few weeks ago). Look forward to hearing their feedback.

Here is the abstract:

This article is an invitation to reflect sociologically on statelessness, to date mostly absent from an otherwise burgeoning sociological debate on citizenship, rights and legal status. Millions of stateless people worldwide challenge a core tenet of state-centric teleological imagination – that in order for the hegemonic state system to work everyone must be a citizen of a state – confirming instead the need for a more nuanced understanding of contemporary forms of membership attentive to the interplay of different rights regimes.

It argues that the experiences of Roma families who have lived for years in Italy in absence of any formal citizenship complicates Hannah Arendt’s powerful and insightful characterisation of stateless people as rightless; the lack of any citizenship doesn’t make them bare life, it reveals instead political subjectivity as an as embodied and emplaced process, where subjects negotiate individually and collectively their position in the world and vis-à-vis the state.

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On the diversity turn, publication announcement

The special issue of Identities. Global Studies in Power and Culture on ‘Ethnography, diversity and urban space‘ that I  edited with Mette L. Berg and Ben Gidley (University of Oxford) is out. Below an edited and substantially abridged version of the introductory essay I wrote with Mette L. Berg. Full version available here

By Mette Louise Berg and Nando Sigona

photo credit: Chris Devers via photopin cc

photo credit: Chris Devers via photopin cc

The demise of multiculturalism as a public policy, and as a political discourse in several European countries, including Germany, the Netherlands and the UK, began over a decade ago in the wake of the 9/11 attacks in New York and the subsequent so-called war on terror. The multiculturalism backlash that ensued effectively left European immigration countries that are de facto multicultural – in terms of languages spoken, religions practiced, ethnicity, etc. – without an explicit policy for dealing with this fact. Meanwhile, in scholarly discourse, ‘multiculturalism’ as an analytical concept has gradually faded away.

The critique of multiculturalism has given way to a broader expression and recognition of different kinds of differences, resulting largely from the waves of new migration that have transformed the demographic profile of urban areas, and increasingly also rural ones: what Steve Vertovec has termed ‘super-diversity’. ‘Super-diversity’ is increasingly used where multiculturalism would have been used previously, but, as we argue in the Introduction to a new special issue of the journal Identities, in sometimes contradictory ways.

The special issue on ‘Ethnography, diversity, and urban change’ is co-edited by Mette Louise Berg, Ben Gidley, and Nando Sigona and brings together an introductory essay on uses and abuses of ‘diversity’, seven ethnographic articles, and an epilogue that use ‘diversity’ to gauge and examine processes of everyday intercultural encounters and practices across European countries, from capital cities to small provincial towns and suburbs.

Cover, Identities: Global studies in culture and power

Cover, Identities: Global studies in culture and power

The articles are concerned with the politics and poetics of belonging, and how they relate to social and spatial practices of inclusion and exclusion. However, unlike studies based within a multiculturalist framework, they consider not just cultural differences, but also class-based differences, housing trajectories, and lifestyle and consumption practices. They analyse practices of the majority, ‘white’ population as well as of minority or migrant groups, thus unsettling established categories of difference. They are attuned to both the micro-level of everyday encounters in streets, housing estates, markets, and neighbourhoods, but also to transnational connections and belonging.

Ben Gidley discusses the commensurability and incommensurability of lives lived in a London housing estate. His article is followed by Camille Schmoll and Giovanni Semi’s reflection on the shadow circuits of trade in the Mediterranean. Alex Rhys-Taylor takes a sensuous approach to the study of local intercultural encounters at an East London street market. Susanne Wessendorf discusses intercultural encounters and relations in an area adjacent to the street market, namely Hackney. Ben Rogaly and Kaveri Qureshi’s article by contrast is set in a new arena for diversity, namely the provincial English city of Peterborough. Ole Jensen moves to another new site for discussions of multiculture, namely an English suburban town. Finally Lars Meier echoes the themes of nostalgia and loss evoked in Gidley’s article. Here, in the former company town of Werderau, a Nuremberg neighbourhood, retired industrial workers lament the loss of a well-ordered, hierarchical world. The Epilogue by Karen Fog Olwig reflects on the theoretical and methodological implications of the diversity turn in ethnographic studies of migration.

The issue as a whole explores how diversity is experienced locally, but also takes into account people’s transnational connections, linking these to the micro-level of everyday life. It opens up a new agenda for scholarship, pushing us to go beyond static categorisations, which constrain our understanding of social life and towards a better understanding of the contingency, spatial specificity and complex conjunctures of multiplying axes of difference.

This new agenda attends closely to how histories and sedimented narratives of encounter shape such conjunctures, while also revealing new sites of encounter as shifting cartographies of difference emerge. As the articles in the special issue demonstrate, a fine-grained, ethnographic understanding of the diversification of diversity as lived experience helps us understand when, where, how, why, and for whom some differences come to make a difference.

This blog post is a substantially abridged and edited extract of ‘Ethnography, diversity and urban space’  by Mette Louise Berg and Nando Sigona. Full version available here: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/1070289X.2013.822382

Within and Beyond Citizenship: Lived Experiences of Contemporary Membership

CALL FOR PAPERS. Deadline for abstracts: 17 December 2012

The analysis of the relationship between legal status, rights and belonging is the central theme of two international symposia jointly organised by the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago and the Centre on Migration, Policy and Society, the Refugee Studies Centre and the Oxford Institute of Social Policy at the University of Oxford.

For the symposium in Oxford (11-12 April 2013), proposals are invited for papers which investigate aspects related to proliferation and precarisation of legal statuses in contemporary Europe and beyond. We welcome proposals that explore the position of the non-citizen in contemporary immigration and emigration states; the nexus between migration, immigration enforcement, rights and belonging; the ways coexisting traditions and regimes of rights are negotiated in policy and practice; and the intersection of ‘race’ and other social cleavages and legal status. In particular, we encourage submissions that focus on one or more of the following areas:

  • Everyday experiences of ‘illegality’ among children and young people
  • Intergenerational impacts of status precariousness
  • Physical mobility and legal status
  • Forms and modalities of political mobilisation around precarious membership
  • Spatial practices and geographies of non-citizenship
  • The impact of precarious status on transnational practices and diasporic consciousness

Gender perspectives and methodological issues of research sensitivity and ethics are significant cross-cutting themes throughout these topics.

If you wish to present a paper at the symposium in Oxford, please submit an abstract (max 250 words) and a brief CV (1 page) through our online system (http://www.rsc.ox.ac.uk/legal-status-submit-abstract) by Monday 17 December 2012 at 5pm (UK time). Participants will be notified if their paper has been selected by Friday 21 January 2012. Full written papers should be submitted to the organisers by 15 March 2013 and will be circulated to discussants and participants before the conference. Presentations are expected to be about 30 minutes.

NB: Please note that by submitting an abstract you commit to producing an original paper of about 6-7,000 words in length by 15 March 2013; also note that we can only accommodate a limited number of papers.

It is anticipated to turn conference proceedings into one or two journal special issues or edited volumes. Papers should therefore be based on original research and should not have been published already or be under consideration for publication elsewhere. Please note that inclusion in any publications arising from the conference will be subject to peer review. For further information about the Oxford symposium, please visit http://www.rsc.ox.ac.uk/events/legal-status-international-symposia or email vanessa.hughes@compas.ox.ac.uk.

The joint symposia are convened by Dr Roberto G. Gonzales (University of Chicago) and Dr Nando Sigona (University of Oxford). The Oxford symposium is organised by Dr Nando Sigona (RSC), Dr Elaine Chase (OISP) and Vanessa Hughes (COMPAS).

Globalisation, rights and the non-citizen

The latest issue of Sociology on the sociology of human rights includes a review essay I wrote on ‘Globalisation, rights and the non-citizen’. The essay takes as a starting point three recently published monographs that, through the analysis of three groups of non-citizens – respectively asylum seekers (Lydia Morris), refugee children (Halleli Pinson et al.), and migrant sex workers (Rutvica Andrijasevic) – examine the tension between two coexisting traditions and regimes of rights, those nested in the nation-state and its institutional apparatus and those available to all human beings by virtue of their shared humanity and increasingly institutionalised at international and national levels. You can read the review essay here: http://soc.sagepub.com/content/46/5/982.full.pdf+html