IMISCOE Web Directory - Claudia S. Wilopo

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Irregularity in the city of Zurich: Irregular migrants' practices of citizenship

My research is about irregular migrants (Sans-Papiers) in the city of Zurich. I'm looking at their engagement in practices of citizenship that challenge their legal status. These practices involve everyday visible practices such as sit-ins, demonstrations and occupations, as well as hidden practices of navigating the city to avoid imprisonment and deportation. Defining these practices as ‘acts of citizenship’ opens up possibilities of a more dynamic and inclusive approach to the idea of citizenship that is not limited to national membership, but can be deployed at various sites and scales.

Understanding the urban space as a site where struggles and processes of allocation and appropriation of rights and citizenship take place, this research analyses how ’acts of citizenship‘ challenge irregular migrants‘ legal statuses and how these acts can be seen as their claim to a ‘right to have rights’ all while constituting themselves as political subjects.

This empirical research is based go-alongs, cartography, interviews and participant observation in the city of Zurich. The objective of is to; firstly, gain more insight into the everyday lives and acts of citizenship of irregular migrants, secondly, to gain better understanding of theoretical approaches that connect urban space and migration, and thirdly, to show how irregular migrants practices of contestation allow for a new conceptualisation of urban citizenship. It seeks to develop an interdisciplinary ethnographic approach to studying their acts of citizenship, and to contribute to ongoing debates in the field of cultural anthropology, urban geography, sociology, and critical citizenship studies that challenge the ideas of the traditional notion of the nation-state, citizenship, citizenship rights, and irregular migrants as politically powerless.

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