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Session Overview
RN25_07a_IC: Citizenship from Below: Social Movements as Forms of Resistance and Redefinition of Citizenship I
Thursday, 31/Aug/2017:
4:00pm - 5:30pm

Session Chair: Liana M. Daher, University of Catania
Location: Intercontinental - Arcade I
Athenaeum Intercontinental Hotel Syngrou Avenue 89-93 Athens, Greece Floor: Lobby Level

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Performing Resistance: Liminality, Infrapolitics and Spatial Contestation in Contemporary Russia

Kerstin Jacobsson, Christian Fröhlich

Higher School of Economics, Moscow

This paper approaches public space as both a space of control and of contestation. The conditions under which public space can be appropriated, claimed and contested, however, differ considerably between democratic and authoritarian societies. This paper focuses on struggles in and over public space in contemporary Russia, exploring in particular the liminality of spatial contestation here. In the context of an over-regulated public space and increasing state repression, urbanites develop creative and subversive forms of performing resistance and protest, balancing on the border of private and public, as well as of overt and covert forms of resistance and protest, thus operating below the legal radar of the authorities. The paper approaches this borderland as a liminal region, investigating the repertoire of protest and contestation and the balancing acts developing here. To theorize liminality, the paper draws on theoretical insights from Henri Lefebvre and Michel de Certeau on everyday tactics as well as James Scott’s notion of infrapolitics and everyday forms of resistance. In doing so the paper explores the revolutionary potential of low-visibility and liminal acts in an increasingly repressive society. The empirical illustrations come from media reports and Internet sources from across Russia as well as the authors’ observations of urban struggles and activist interviews in the Moscow area in the period of 2012-16.

Anti-Austerity protests and legal strategies in Portugal and France

Carolina Alves Vestena

University of Kassel, Germany

The worldwide wave of demonstrations that started in 2011 had a specific resonance in Europe. The protests in Spain, Portugal, Greece and more recently, France, represent a milestone for the debates on the democratic characteristics of the European Union and the role of economic institutions in shaping political decisions. The critique of austerity is nowadays at the core of the claims of social movements, especially following the impoverishing effects of the “one size fits all” policies proposed by the so-called Troika. Since then, the academic and activist debates are trying to understand the multiple meanings of these struggles and also the movements’ strategies in this context. Considering these issues, this paper presents an analysis about the demonstrations in Portugal (2011) and France (2016) and is structured around two central lines of research. In the first place, it analyses how the movements reacted to institutional changes by developing a discourse against austerity. In this regard, the most important local issues that triggered the demonstrations – the memorandum of understanding in Portugal and labour law bill in France – are studied in detail. Secondly, strategies that accompanied the protests will be analysed, as for example, legal claims (possible strategic litigation) and collective mobilization that originated from these processes. Based on a qualitative approach of legal strategies and mobilization, this paper aims at developing a research agenda on the interconnection of law and social mobilization.

Irregular migrants and digital citizenship: How irregular migrants struggle for citizenship on the Internet

Minke Hajer

università degli studi di Milano/Universiteit van Amsterdam, Netherlands, The

Irregular migrants are excluded from formal citizenship and by implication from the national political community. However, this does not preclude activity by irregular migrants to become part of the political community or even to attain citizenship. Empirical research reveals irregular migrants struggling for citizenship in various ways, e.g. by demonstrating in cities and occupying buildings. While the literature on citizenship accounts for this sort of ‘incremental citizenship’, one aspect of these citizenship struggles has received little attention: the Internet. This paper presents an analysis of how irregular migrants use the Internet in general and social media in particular in their struggle for citizenship. I suggest irregular migrants perform ‘digital acts of citizenship’ and make ‘digital rights claims’. Based on a study of the digital dynamics of two groups of irregular migrants - the ‘We Are Here’ in Amsterdam and the ‘Ex Moi’ in Turin - the paper shows how irregular migrants challenge the prevailing notion of citizenship by making claims to it in the digital sphere. Furthermore it shows how irregular migrants develop counter discourses that challenge the discursive boundaries of the mainstream public sphere by developing alternative stories about their situation and alternative interpretations of mainstream media coverage. The paper concludes with a discussion of the (theoretical) questions regarding the concept of (digital) citizenship, the boundaries thereof and the right to the ‘digital public sphere’.

To Be Young, Displaced and Syrian: Political subjectivities and enacting citizenship by non-citizens in Europe

Tasneem Sharkawi

Lancaster University, United Kingdom

This paper looks at a group of young Syrian forced migrants as they engage in acts of resistance directed against the Syrian regime after they have resettled in Europe. The focus is on these sustained acts of dissidence and resistance as part of the resettlement experience of this group of young Syrians. Drawing upon theorizations of performative citizenship (Isin, 2002; Isin & Turner, 2007; Isin & Nielsen, 2008; Isin, 2009; 2012; Zivi, 2012; Isin & Saward, 2013; Isin, 2017) and political performativity (Butler, 2013; 2015), I explore the rights claims this group of young Syrians make, and the sites and scales involved in their activist engagement. The aim is to understand the ways they enact themselves as citizens (when they are not), and the set of practices that constitute their political subjectivities as Syrian refugees in Europe. Referring to research materials from participant-observations, intensive interviews, and social media artifacts, I share insights generated from early findings underlining some aspects of the participants’ experiences of grassroots organizing and mobilizing. These aspects address recurring themes of engagement with the public sphere of the European host societies; the emerging (refugee-founded) civil society in Europe, the formation of transnational networks of activism; and the ways activism engages with and challenges traditional notions of sovereignty and public opinion in Europe, and reconstructs the Syrian national imagination and national identity.

(The title echoes Nina Simone’s song ‘To be Young, Gifted and Black’ written and performed in the wake of the Civil Rights Movement. I invoke the idea of performing citizenship through making rights claims that was in many ways at the heart of the African American struggle for civil rights.)

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