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Cities and Social Movements: Immigrant Rights Activism in the US, France, and the Netherlands, 1970-2015



Through historical and comparative research on the immigrant rights movements of the United States, France and the Netherlands, Cities and Social Movements examines how small resistances against restrictive immigration policies do - or don't - develop into large and sustained mobilizations. Presents a comprehensive, comparative analysis of immigrant rights politics in three countries over a period of five decades, providing vivid accounts of the processes through which immigrants activists challenged or confirmed the status quo. Theorizes movements from the bottom-up, presenting an urban grassroots account in order to identify how movement networks emerge or fall apart. Provides a unique contribution by examining how geography is implicated in the evolution of social movements, discovering how and why the networks constituting movements grow by tracing where they develop. Demonstrates how efforts to enforce national borders trigger countless resistances and shows how some environments provide the relational opportunities to nurture these small resistances into sustained mobilizations. Written to appeal to a broad audience of students, scholars, policy makers, and activists, without sacrificing theoretical rigor.
Cities and Social Movements: Immigrant Rights Activism in the United States, France,
and the Netherlands, 1970–2015, First Edition. Walter J. Nicholls and Justus Uitermark.
© 2017 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Published 2017 by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Sparks ofResistance
On Monday November 17, 2014, the US President, Barack Obama,
addressed the nation in a live televised speech on immigration. After
waiting in vain for Congress to pass an immigration bill, Obama
announced that he would use his executive authority to protect almost
5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation. The responses
to Obama’s address were suggestive of just how controversial his actions
were. The leader of the House of Representatives, Republican John
Boehner, had warned Obama before his address. In Boehner’s view,
Obama usurped power like an autocrat and went against the will of the
American people: “If ‘Emperor Obama’ ignores the American people
and announces an amnesty plan that he himself has said over and over
again exceeds his Constitutional authority, he will cement his legacy
of lawlessness and ruin the chances for Congressional action on this
issue – and many others.” Michael McCaul, chairman of the House
Committee for Homeland Security, echoed none other than Malcolm
X when he stated that the Republicans were going to stop the execu-
tive action “by any means necessary.” Yet another Republican politician,
Senator Tom Coburn, said that Obama’s move might result in blood-
shed: “This country’s going to go nuts, because they’re going to see it as
a move outside the authority of the president, and it’s going to be a very
serious situation … You’re going to see–hopefully not–but you could
see instances of anarchy … you could see violence.”
0002791695.indd 1 9/27/2016 7:45:07 AM
Nicholls, Walter J. and Justus Uitermark
(2017) Cities and Social Movements:
Immigrant Rights Activism in the US,
France, and the Netherlands, 1970-2015.
Oxford: Wiley.
2 Cities and Social Movements
Obama’s decision to provide relief to millions of undocumented immi-
grants was unprecedented in scale, but it was not unique. Many of his
predecessors had used their authority to the same ends. Earlier in his
administration, in 2012, Obama had also granted temporary status to
600,000 undocumented youths who had arrived as children (Deferred
Action for Childhood Arrivals, DACA). Nor is the regularization of undoc-
umented immigrants unique to the United States. Countries as different
as the Netherlands and France have occasionally enacted legislation and
executive decrees to regularize the status of some groups of precarious
immigrants. The Netherlands enacted a broad regularization in 2006,
and in 2012 it passed a law to grant permanent residency status to groups
of immigrants who had entered the country as minors and their families.
France has also enacted large and small measures to regularize the status
of tens of thousands of immigrants in 1997, 2006, and 2013.
These regularizations are remarkable on a number of levels. The liter-
ature on immigration suggests that, since the 1970s, governments in the
global North have embarked on an immense effort to reinforce national
borders through the construction of massive “deportation regimes” (De
Genova and Peutz 2010; Kalir and Sur 2012; Menjívar and Kanstroom
2014). The United States, France, and the Netherlands, among many
other countries, have developed an extensive infrastructure to mon-
itor immigration flows and block the settlement of immigrants deemed
unwanted. The US government in the 1990s allocated more resources to
enforcement, expedited deportation procedures, restricted judicial dis-
cretion during removal proceedings, and reduced possibilities for appeals
(Durand and Massey 2003; Varsanyi 2008). The Dutch government
similarly introduced a range of laws and institutions to stop the flow of
so‐called non‐Western working‐class immigrants. It also developed a fine‐
grained infrastructure for monitoring, registering, and secluding immi-
grants, and increasing its administrative detention capacity from around
1,000 units in 1999 to almost 4,000 units in 2007 (Leerkes and Broeders
2010: 835). Likewise, France introduced restrictions on migrating fam-
ilies and asylum seekers, while also rolling out a massive infrastructure to
facilitate the detention and removal of unwanted people in the country.
After 1993, a series of laws eliminated automatic citizenship to those born
on French soil (later rescinded), introduced stricter criteria for family
reunification and refugee status, placed restrictions on public services
to undocumented immigrants, barred most nonprofit associations from
providing support to undocumented immigrants in need, authorized
identity checks of suspect immigrants, and expanded detention centers
at airports, ports, and cities (Hayward and Wright 2002).
These restrictive measures arose in response to public worries
concerning the place of immigrants in nations being transformed
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Sparks of Resistance 3
by neoliberal globalization (Berezin 2009; Massey and Pren 2012).
Prominent politicians and opinion makers suggested that immigrants
drove down wages and further burdened the welfare state. They also
argued that immigrants in Europe and the United States were so cultur-
ally different from nationals that they undermined social cohesion and
posed a threat to national identity. There was extensive media coverage
throughout Europe of immigrants “flooding” the region and living in
inhumane conditions in camps, occupied buildings, and slum settle-
ments. The “misery of the world,” as former French Prime Minister
Michel Rocard once said, was descending on these countries, present-
ing a major threat to national ways of life. Responding to this perceived
threat, governments across the global North pursued restrictions and
laid out the legal, moral, and physical basis for powerful deportation
Given the hostile climate facing immigrants and governments’ fren-
zied attempts to secure their borders, one might have expected immi-
grants to adopt survival strategies that would allow them to remain
hidden and under the radar. Engaging in assertive, highly visible, and
sometimes disruptive political actions like protests, occupations, and
hunger strikes would seem counterintuitive at best and unwise at worst.
However, rather than hunker down and turn in on themselves, many
immigrants have asserted their rights to have normal, visible, and equal
lives in the countries in which they reside. While the general evolution
has been in the direction of heated discourse and greater restrictions,
some immigrant mobilizations have successfully swum against the tide
and achieved important wins, including large‐scale regularizations. How
can we make sense of these seemingly irreconcilable trends: the general
hardening of attitudes and policies toward working‐class immigrants
and the persistent struggles to extend rights and protection to this
population? This book addresses the question by analyzing the geog-
raphy of resistances and mobilizations in the United States, France, and
the Netherlands over the past 40 years. We investigate the painful and
contentious processes through which immigrants who were expected to
work and disappear–Latino immigrants in the US case, North African
and Turkish guest workers in the European cases –became resilient
political subjects.
Where There Are Borders, There Are Resistances
One part of the answer is that the formidable efforts to close off the
nation have generated resisting residues. If states want to seal their
countries, they have to bring the border home and require local
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4 Cities and Social Movements
officials and citizens to take a direct role in rooting out “nefarious”
foreigners from their daily worlds. This means that the acts of bor-
dering and deporting people require thousands of street‐level bureau-
crats to assume frontline roles in carrying out exclusionary acts. The
multiplication and localization of border enforcers are the only ways
in which countries can close the cracks that allow unwanted popula-
tions to settle in countries. In the Netherlands, doctors are required
to report on the legal status of patients and bus drivers are encour-
aged to keep an eye out for suspicious populations. In France, mayors
have become responsible for granting “housing certificates” to immi-
grants applying for family visas and voluntary associations have been
forbidden from providing assistance to suspected undocumented people.
In these and many other instances, the proximity of street‐level border
enforcers to actual immigrants has allowed them to better survey sus-
picious activities and deny immigrants the resources needed to ensure
their physical survival. As many institutions and professionals have
assumed greater responsibility for ensuring national borders in daily
life, the border ceases to be a distant frontier zone. Borders are no
longer implemented by specially designated border police and mobi-
lized against a foreign population we don’t know or see. Maintaining
and producing national borders now involves everyone–local police,
housing officials, employers, teachers, voluntary associations–and is
directed at real people engaged in countless daily practices. A border
is no longer something that is geographically and socially distant but
something that is proximate and carried out in daily life.
Many people assume their bordering responsibilities without second‐
guessing the rules. An employer rarely thinks twice about checking the
immigration status of a prospective employee; public housing authorities
and private landlords make it clear that they discriminate on the basis of
immigration status; and so on. In these and many other instances, main-
taining the exclusionary boundary between “legal” and “illegal” people
becomes a banal part of one’s work life. The border enforcer ceases to
interrogate the moral or ethical rationalities underlying their exclusionary
practices because it is just normal, reflecting what Hannah Arendt once
called the “banality of evil” (Arendt 1977). When confronted with a
“heartbreaking” or morally troubling case, street‐level border enforcers
oftentimes continue the assigned tasks but attribute moral responsibility
to distant bureaucrats and government officials (Kalir and Wissink 2016).
Too much proximity reveals the humanity of people and raises morally
troubling questions, but this kind of tactical distancing helps assuage the
moral ambivalences of street‐level border enforcers.
While many people faithfully execute their tasks, others balk
and resist. The paradox that haunts deportation regimes is that it
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Sparks of Resistance 5
is not only their efficacy that increases but also their vulnerability,
as more and more local actors are called upon to participate in
border enforcement. All these local actors may participate in border
enforcement but they can also throw sand in the machine. Moral
and professional ambiguities emerge when enacting exclusionary
measures against real people who happen to be immigrants. The
requirement to enact borders may conflict with other responsibil-
ities associated with a job. Doctors in the Netherlands have pushed
back on government measures, and some local police agencies in
the United States have rejected partnerships with federal border
enforcement agencies. Moreover, people who must witness the pain-
ful process of extracting and deporting people they actually know
can produce moral shocks that spur resistances. Parents of school‐age
children in France, for instance, have had some of the most successful
mobilizations to block the deportation of immigrant youths and their
undocumented parents. The immigrant ceased being a distant Other
on the outskirts of society but was now a friend or an acquaintance
from school; somebody who had a face, a name, and a solid place in
an actual community. Government policies aiming to extract immi-
grants thus have produced points of resistance and conflict with those
being targeted by the measures (actual immigrants), those enlisted to
carry them out (street‐level border enforcers), and morally shocked
friends, families, and supporters in communities. Thus, even–or per-
haps especially–when immigration regimes are designed as hermet-
ically closed systems, they generate countless local disturbances that
can send tremors throughout the whole system.
One of our theoretical goals is to interrogate the limits of govern-
mentality theory (Rose and Miller 1992; Rose 1999; Inda 2006) in the
domain of immigration. Even though national governments try to rein-
force their territorial power by developing deeply penetrating and far‐
reaching bordering strategies, we try to show that not all those involved
in this process comply passively. Government measures to produce and
enforce borders have had strong and somewhat unpredictable politi-
cizing effects on immigrants and supportive nationals. Wherever power
draws a line between the acceptable and unacceptable, the “legal” and
“illegal” human being, those finding themselves on the wrong side of the
divide can develop subversion tactics by evading detection, appealing
decisions, or simply refusing to cooperate. Government strategies do
not necessarily produce stable, clearly demarcated, and well‐policed
social orders where everybody has a neat place, as intended by govern-
ments. Instead, they produce a multiplicity of resistances and strug-
gles, which can in turn have disruptive effects on the general order of
things. “Where there is power,” as Michel Foucault once asserted, “there
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6 Cities and Social Movements
is resistance, and yet, or rather consequently, this resistance is never
in a position of exteriority in relation to power” (Foucault 1978: 95).
Or, as Henri Lefebvre, concisely put it, “State‐imposed normality makes
permanent transgression inevitable” (1991: 23). Whenever powerful
groups and institutions label outsiders as illegal and illegitimate, small
resistances emerge and plant the seeds for larger struggles. We do not
suggest that specific grievances and associated resistances alone explain
large‐scale struggles. However, they plant the seeds that can, under the
right conditions, grow into larger and more complex mobilizations for
rights and legal residency.
Where Small Resistances Take Root andGrow
into Big Mobilizations
Our interest isn’t to inventory countless forms of resistance. It is to
examine the mechanisms in which some resistances concentrate in
certain places, harness energies and countervailing powers, and grow
into large mobilizations that eat into and sometimes alter the bor-
dering practices and rationalities of modern nation states. The power
to restrict and interdict produces countless seeds of resistance, but not
all resistances take root and grow into disruptive political mobilizations.
Understanding this process requires us to investigate the geographical
terrains in which seeds of resistance are planted and grow into big, tan-
gled, and disruptive struggles for rights and recognition.
Seeds of resistance are born at the specific points where restrictions
are enacted: undocumented immigrants protest deportation orders by
initiating hunger strikes in the places they live; immigrant day laborers
fight for their right to work in towns that ban such activities; local
mayors provide undocumented immigrants with homeless services in
conflict with national laws; doctors treat patients in hospitals irrespec-
tive of their status; parents and school employees protest deportation
raids in their schools and neighborhoods. Enacting restrictive bor-
dering policies locally therefore localizes and multiplies seeds of resis-
tances wherever they are enacted. We do not suggest that resistance
is automatic, especially considering the ability of people to banalize
exclusion. We do argue that attempts to seal borders produce many
ambivalences and cracks, and that some of these can become a new
point of resistance and conflict in the system. These local conflicts are
often limited in scope and time but, under the proper conditions, they
can grow into systemic challenges when immigrants collectively–with
the support of allies and supporters–assert their rights in the face of
attack and exclusion.
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Sparks of Resistance 7
Resistances may be everywhere that power is enacted, but all places
do not provide the support needed to grow resistances into tangled
and disruptive political mobilizations. Social movement scholars have
long asserted that certain resources (recruits, organizations, money,
skills, trust, etc.) are necessary in transforming seeds of resistances
into large mobilizations (della Porta and Diani 1999; McAdam etal.
2001). We also know that certain environments furnish more resources
than others. Resistances may arise in places where specific government
powers are enacted but not all places provide sufficient conditions to
grow small seeds into big mobilizations. Immigrant detention centers
and prisons, for instance, are important sites for producing seeds of
resistance but these environments are not necessarily the best to trans-
form early seeds into broad and sustained struggles. Detention cen-
ters in the Netherlands are home to hundreds of hunger strikes each
year but these strikes are largely ignored by the media, public, support
groups, and politicians because they take place in environments that do
not possess the full range of resources needed to nurture their growth
and maturation. These resistances end up passing largely unnoticed,
presenting only minor and uneventful disruptions in the circuits of
state power. In other instances, early resistances may find more sup-
portive and enriching environments, providing them with conditions
for further growth.
Certain environments may be richer and more supportive than others,
but outsiders cannot simply tap into and make use of these resources
automatically. They must develop relations with more established actors
in these environments as a precondition to tapping into and making use
of embedded resources, knowledge, and information. This book exam-
ines the relational qualities of places that make it possible for deprived
and stigmatized outsiders to tap into rich resource pools and build pow-
erful struggles for rights and equality in inhospitable countries. These
relational qualities are heavily concentrated in certain large cities and,
within them, in specific neighborhoods. These places function as incu-
bators for early seeds of resistance and provide relational opportunities for
outsiders to contest their exclusion. In places with abundant opportu-
nities to create strong and supportive relations, marginalized activists
can connect to sympathetic supporters and allies and eventually tap into
the resources, information, and knowledge concentrated in strategic
places. Relations provide access to a diverse range of strategic resources,
which then facilitate the growth of small resistances into large and tan-
gled mobilizations. We are aware that cities do not have a monopoly on
resources, strategic mechanisms, and opportune relations but some do
tend have a higher concentration of these attributes than other places.
The concentration of these qualities in particular places produces
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8 Cities and Social Movements
environments that are better able to facilitate the growth of seeds of
resistance into large and entangled struggles for rights, equality, and
protections. This book investigates under what conditions cities do or
do not perform this role of incubating resistance.
In the countries we investigate – the United States, France, the
Netherlands–struggles for immigrant rights intensified in the 1970s
in response to increasingly restrictive immigration policies. The fight
for general rights of immigrants often emerged in response to depor-
tations, police raids, the lack of decent housing, the unwillingness of
officials to recognize residency claims, restrictions on selling labor or
goods in public, and so on. While early struggles sprouted in many
places across these countries, they took root and later flourished, espe-
cially in Los Angeles, Paris, and Amsterdam. These cities concentrated
diverse resources and provided relational opportunities for pioneer-
ing immigrant rights activists to reach out and connect to a variety of
supporters in possession of these resources. These supporters included
leftist radicals, intellectuals, unionists, and humanitarians. Although
these movements were national in scope and orientation, they relied
on resources and relations that were spatially concentrated. In all
three of our cases, immigrant rights activists in different mobilizations
were able to assert their voice in the national political arena because
of their ability to develop relations with people and organizations in
possession of different kinds of resources. Cities are central arenas in
the struggle for general rights and equality because they tend to be the
frontline sites where exclusions are enacted and because they provide
the resources and relational opportunities that can support emergent
activists. While we show how these cities fostered large mobilizations in
particular times, mobilizations morphed, collapsed, and re‐emerged
throughout the 40‐year period under investigation here. The chang-
ing nature of struggles across time and cases provides us with unique
insights into the factors that facilitate and block the contention in
these cities.
The two central tasks of the book–explaining the persistence of
immigrant rights struggles in spite of adverse conditions, and chart-
ing the geographies of these struggles – are two sides of the same
coin. The mechanisms through which these immigrant movements
(but not only immigrant movements) a rise or decline all have dis-
tinct and consequential spatial underpinnings. Our explanation for
the evolution of immigrant rights movements thus examines how and
why the networks constituting movements develop by tracing where
they develop. By descending to the grassroots we hope to uncover
some of the mechanisms by which movements take shape, grow, and
fall apart.
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Sparks of Resistance 9
Policing Resistance through theUrban Grassroots
Some cities provide rich environments for seeds of resistance to grow
into robust mobilizations but activists in many cities do not always con-
nect with others and develop productive political relations. Many factors
impede such political relations. Some advocacy organizations may simply
have sufficient resources of their own and may not need to develop
partnerships with other organizations in their environment. Others
may find themselves competing for the same recruits and sources of
financing, which can exacerbate ideological and strategic conflicts. And
still others may face institutional and discursive constraints imposed by
local governance regimes. These different factors all play a role in shap-
ing activism, but we draw specific attention to government efforts to
rewire the networks making up the relational worlds of activists.
Los Angeles, Paris, and Amsterdam helped immigrant activists
assert their rights in unpredictable and sometimes disruptive ways. In
addition, anxious nationals demanded that government officials take
action to protect public order against deviant groups and in unruly
immigrant neighborhoods. Governments could not stand idle in the
face of these demands because the demands called their legitimacy into
question. Governments with more robust statist traditions (France and
the Netherlands) became particularly active in rolling out new tech-
niques to control the neighborhoods where immigrants concentrated
and enlisted associations in efforts to integrate and police immigrant
populations. While many organizations of immigrants had challenged
discrimination, deprivation, and deportations in the 1970s, in the
course of the 1980s governments attempted to enlist them as partners
in efforts to promote integration and fight crime. Governments iden-
tified territories with elevated risks, monitored activities within them,
identified influential organizations within these spaces, and introduced
measures to control conduct and norms.
While recognizing that governments invariantly attempt to perforate
and steer relations in civil society, we show that these efforts have been
very uneven over time and space. In the United States, for example,
the rollback of federal urban policy during the 1980s coincided with a
tradition of laissez‐faire immigrant integration policies. This resulted in
rather weak control mechanisms to address the growing population of
immigrant activists in Los Angeles. By contrast, France’s control strat-
egies targeted first‐ and second‐generation immigrants, left human
rights non‐governmental organizations (NGOs) unscathed, and did not
grapple with informal, undocumented activist groups. This resulted in a
whack‐a‐mole approach by the state in which one segment of the immi-
grant rights movement was brought under state control while another
0002791695.indd 9 9/27/2016 7:45:07 AM
10 Cities and Social Movements
segment was allowed to flourish for many years. Lastly, the flexible and
pragmatic character of the Dutch state allowed it to respond to unantic-
ipated threats by redirecting its attention from leftist radicals to Muslim
organizations to counter radicalization and promote integration.
Understanding the uneven strategies of government control helps
account for differences in the form of national social movements and
their power to achieve their goals.
Governments have a great capacity to disrupt productive relations
between activists and supporters in the same city. However, the reach
of government is always limited, even in a very effective governing con-
text like the Netherlands. The constant enactment of bordering powers
across a national space produces varied resistances. An effective and
flexible government can anticipate, channel, and defuse many of these,
but certain resistances inevitably escape its reach and give rise to desta-
bilizing mobilizations. The book therefore draws inspiration from the
governmentality literature because governments do reach into the life
spaces and relational worlds of activists, modify subjective and strategic
worldviews, and mediate exchanges. However, governments also pro-
duce resistance‐generating interdictions, and some of these resistances
can fester and grow beyond the gaze and reach of the state. Thus, the
government asserts control over its national territory and activist rela-
tions in cities, but these measures are contradictory and imperfect,
which provides interstitial openings for seeds to grow into potentially
disruptive mobilizations.
Overview oftheBook
This book stems from the individual and collaborative research per-
formed by both authors since the early 2000s. For more than a decade,
we interviewed many activists, political officials, and associations of var-
ious types. We used historical archives to discover new information and
verify arguments made by informants. Archives from leading national
newspapers (New York Times, Le Monde, NRC, etc.) were also used to pro-
vide information about conflicts, stakeholders, mobilization frames,
and other details concerning different rights campaigns. Lastly, we
made extensive use of secondary resources to provide greater context
and detail for the campaigns and government measures in question.
While we pursued our research projects independently over this period,
since 2009 we have collaborated on a series of articles that form the
foundation for this book.
This book addresses two major issues: how do precarious immi-
grants press for rights in increasingly inhospitable countries, and how
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Sparks of Resistance 11
do particular places help or block their ability to engage in these strug-
gles? We address these issues by following the evolution of immigrant
rights struggles in Los Angeles, Paris, and Amsterdam from the 1970s
to the late 2000s. The book is divided into three, roughly chronological
parts. Part I examines the birth of immigrant rights activism. In spite of
important differences between our cases, the 1970s marked the emer-
gence of this form of activism. We suggest that the similarities reflect
the intensification of resistances against new government measures to
restrict immigration and increase deportations. The closing of borders
and the creation of deportation regimes provided the common struc-
tural push that inaugurated the battle for immigrant rights in all three
countries. These restrictions concentrated in cities because all three of
our cities had the highest concentrations of immigrants in their respec-
tive countries and all three cities possessed a high density and diversity
of activist organizations. The density, diversity, and openness of local
activist milieus provided a new generation of immigrant rights activ-
ists with relational opportunities to create new friends and supporters.
These relations were used to tap and appropriate rich resource pools
for struggles unfolding at regional and national scales. Thus, in spite
of important differences between these cases, we continue to highlight
the remarkable similarities in the first immigrant rights struggles of
this era.
Part II shifts the focus and begins to examine government control
strategies during the 1980s and 1990s. It suggests that differences in
these strategies helped to restructure immigrant rights networks and
place movements on very different trajectories. Whereas the first part
of the book stresses the similarities between our cases, the second part
identifies the government control strategies that contributed to pro-
ducing differences in terms of immigrant rights activists’ capacities and
methods to assert rights claims.
Part III examines the effects of government control strategies on mobi-
lizations. It suggests that efforts to exert political control have not extin-
guished struggles. Rather, these strategies have morphed grievances,
resistances, and mobilizations over the past two decades. In the United
States, we show that a rather weak strategy of political integration dur-
ing the 1980s and 1990s provided the space for rights activists and their
union allies to consolidate into a new hub of rights activism. Grassroots
organizations in the 2000s and 2010s have been able to use place‐based
relations as a foundation to assert themselves in national debates and
struggles over immigrant rights. In France, political integration essen-
tially marginalized older left‐wing immigrant associations and their sec-
ond‐generation comrades. Following this, the movement has been split
between two factions: one faction made up of professional, mostly white,
0002791695.indd 11 9/27/2016 7:45:08 AM
12 Cities and Social Movements
mostly male, and mostly national NGOs; and the other faction made up
of informal, mostly undocumented, strongly female, and highly local-
ized groups. In the Netherlands, political integration neutralized older
left‐wing immigrant associations and depoliticized the NGO sector.
This has left a social movement field that provides aggrieved undocu-
mented immigrants with a rather fallow field of support. Nevertheless,
immigrants and their supporters continue to resist government restric-
tions but their battles have been highly individualized and scattered
throughout the country. Thus, the third and final part of the book iden-
tifies the outcomes that result from the different government strategies.
There is a broad lesson that can be taken from this book. Resistance
to exclusionary state power is not an exception but a constant. Even
when confronted by sophisticated government strategies to pre‐empt
and neutralize resistance, our study finds that a pugnacious and forceful
politics of rights persists. Every effort to silence or banish certain actors
spurs innovations and alternative responses among targeted groups,
producing constant struggles for rights and recognition. This does not
mean that every configuration of resistance has the same chances of
success. Under certain conditions, these resistances can evolve into
struggles with greater reach and impact. Our exploration of the mech-
anisms that turn sparks of resistance into sustained mobilizations is a
deeply interdisciplinary endeavor. Our own intellectual trajectories and
the themes covered in this book span sociology, geography, political sci-
ences, and urban studies. Our hope is that the book will speak to dif-
ferent audiences and serve as a bridge between the disciplines trying to
understand how resistances emerge and why they succeed or fail.
0002791695.indd 12 9/27/2016 7:45:08 AM
... By this it is meant that the seeds of resistance are put when restrictions are applied (ibid.). As Nicholls and Uitermark (2017) point, the cities are the spaces where grassroots resistance can flourish due to the fact that there, people are excluded the most, and because cities provide the resources for activism to emerge as they encompass some distinct mechanisms that facilitate the initiation of struggles (p. 8). ...
... 8). Nicholls and Uitermark (2017) argue that cities include organizational density that enables the connection of different actors, like lawyers, unions, associations, the media, etc., which have the resources. This brings us to the theory of opportunity structures which tells us that the social structures in which we are born affect us further on our education, career path, and generally the "choices" that we make -which more often than not, are not "choices" but rather predefined destiny. ...
... So, the repressions enacted in the city often spark resistances which might also gain support by the other organizations that operate in the city. Circumstances and conditions create a fertile ground for different organizations to cooperate even though they have different resources and different levels of legitimacy (Nicholls and Uitermark, 2017). ...
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This thesis examines the social impacts of Covid-19 restriction measures implemented by the Greek government during March-April 2020 with a national lockdown and curfew. Among the mostly affected vulnerable groups were refugees and migrants, the homeless, and the unemployed who faced the destructive consequences of the government's tactics. In this paper, activists from Athens respond to the challenges the Greek society dealt with at the time, and try to shed light on the matter.
... PSI sought to scale up alliances to the global level, motivated by this perceived mutual (self-)interest (Tattersall, 2010) at the local urban scale. While it is perhaps no surprise that cities can become strategic spaces that drive larger movements (Nicholls & Uitermark, 2017), the network here was able to extend as far as to global labour. ...
... It was in line with conceptions of social movement practices seen as a distinct mixture of wider cross-cutting and more local socio-spatial relations, together representing combined articulated moments (e.g. Nicholls & Uitermark, 2017;Routledge et al., 2013;Uitermark & Nicholls, 2012). The findings highlight how wide relational practices that pursue the right to water are constituted and explained by the particula r spatiotemporal politics of specific places that includes historical depth, which is a perspective called for in recent water justice literature (Clark, 2020;Sultana & Loftus, 2020). ...
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The article is available open access via the link displayed above. This paper examines different ways of studying – and thereby understanding – social movement spatialities. For more than a decade, literature on the geographies of social movements has explored the multiple spatialities of mobilisation, using concepts like scale, network, place and territory. Drawing on existing contributions, the study provides a critical engagement that differentiates between several forms of research agendas involving contrasting epistemologies. This engagement contributes to opening up a conceptualisation of multiple analytical approaches by (1) analysing wider processes and political goals spanning different movements, characterised as ‘cross‐cutting spatialities’; (2) studying the more specific and diverse spatiotemporal realities within particular movement cases, which describe their ‘complex‐situated spatialities’; and (3) considering how inherent tensions arise between the different political practices of specific movements, displaying ‘contradictory spatialities’. The reading of these approaches is framed within a relational perspective that employs them in an empirical study of local and global struggles against neoliberalised urban water services. The paper explores the spatial practices of an urban place‐based movement struggle in Johannesburg and a global labour union federation for public service workers – representing two vantage points in the fight for water justice and the human right to essential services. The study demonstrates how the analytical approaches inform one another through complementary but also contrasting perspectives on movement politics.
... To explain the range of local responses to migration, scholars on the one hand have emphasized the importance of local contextual factors, including the political ideology of local voters and politicians, the demographic characteristics of native-and foreign-born residents, and the characteristics of local civil society organizations (e.g., de Graauw, 2016;Gulasekaram & Ramakrishnan, 2015;Hopkins, 2010;Lidén & Nyhlén, 2022;Nicholls & Uitermark, 2017;Schiller, 2016;Steil & Vasi, 2014). On the other hand, scholars have also focused on how city policies relate to national policies targeting immigrants. ...
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In this editorial, we highlight the crucial but understudied role of mayors in migration issues, especially as it relates to responding to the challenges posed by the local reception and integration of refugees, asylum seekers, and undocumented immigrants. Drawing on key findings from this issue's nine articles that analyse mayoral leadership on migration issues in US and European municipalities, we argue that mayors' unique position at the intersection of horizontal and vertical governance structures forces them to navigate contrasting multilevel dynamics from below and above. This in turn shapes both opportunities and notable constraints for mayors to exert leadership on local migration issues, thereby calling into question conventional wisdom that mayors are all-powerful local actors guided by pragmatic rationales in the pursuit of inclusive policy change. We conclude by discussing possible directions for future research, underscoring the need for more comparative research, a greater focus on interaction effects, and more attention to the impact of mayoral actions on migrant integration.
... While much of the research explores migrants' politics at the national level, we argue that city-level analyses are crucial for several reasons. First, cities are the actual localities where migrant groups concretely interact with the host society, its institutions, and other migrant groups (Graauw and Vermeulen 2016;Nicholls and Uitermark 2016). It is at this level that concrete political mobilization takes place, even though the political claims raised might target local, regional, national, or transnational levels. ...
This paper studies the dynamics of political mobilization of two transnational organizations – Assemblea Nacional Catalana and Marea Granate – formed by Spanish/Catalan migrants in different European cities. By conducting cross-organization and cross-city research, we analyze why and how migrants’ transnational networks perceive themselves to be stronger in some cities and weaker in others. This paper demonstrates that there is no one-size-fits-all mechanism that explains perceived organizational strength in all contexts. The same urban context might provide different opportunities and constraints depending on organizational characteristics of migrant movements. Our study shows the ways that organizations’ political agenda and their preferred action forms affect the perception of positionality as they navigate in different urban contexts with diverging national/local political settings, political cultures, civil society networks, and migration trajectories. The empirical data in this research stem from a content analysis of the events organized by the organizations and semi-structured in-depth interviews with organizations’ representatives. Preprint available here:
... However, as Balibar (2004: 109) reminds us, 'borders have changed place', as not only are they 'at the edge of territory' but they 'have been transported into the middle of political space'. Yet, as Nicholls and Uitermark (2017: 3) have emphasised, where there are borders there is resistance; and if the 'political' is the place of encounter with the 'police' (Rancie`re, 1995), then the question of the possibility of the Athens refugee squats to claim the right to the city centre against the urban internal borders of police-controlled state-run camps becomes crucial. ...
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Over the years, cities have figured as exemplary places for neoliberal urban policies which tend to appropriate the right to the city through city-branding policies. However, as this article demonstrates , there are important claims of the right to the city raised by newly arrived refugees in the city of Athens. Although most refugees reside in overcrowded state-run camps on the outskirts of the city, there are many cases in which refugees enact the production of collective common spaces, occupying abandoned buildings in the urban core and claiming the right to the centre of the city. In this context and following the Lefebvrian notion of the right to the city and the spatial analysis on commons and enclosures, we explore the actions of refugees, and the way they engage in commoning practices that not only strive against the official state policies, but also often contest city-branding policies. In particular, we focus on the area of Exarcheia in Athens, which is an emblematic case of the conflicted nexus between investors' and refugees' right to the city.
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From September to November 2015, more than 100,000 people applied for asylum in Sweden. Societal solidarity was unmistakable during this period, but six months later, when the refugees were to be accommodated, the situation had changed. In this analysis of imaginaries of migrants as strangers I scrutinize the city of Gothenburg's plan to build 1,000 temporary housing units to accommodate refugees. The project failed, resulting in only 57 units being built. In this article I analyse the societal imaginations the project revealed, including those embedded in political and public conflicts of opinion. In an attempt to understand why people sometimes refuse to share social space, I draw on a combination of Sara Ahmed's theories on the figure of ‘the stranger’ and Julia Kristeva's theories on how the stranger emanates from an ontological lack. I also outline in the article how different techniques of expulsion can be used to create spatial and temporal estrangement. In the subsequent analysis I demonstrate how practices of exclusion worked to expel migrants from urban development plans in the city of Gothenburg. The conclusion emphasizes the urgent need to scrutinize imaginaries among majority populations, and draws attention to the fact that the ‘foreigner is within us’.
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Following the start of the Syrian civil war, the Mediterranean Sea gradually became a cemetery for refugees. As Europe closed borders and criminalized refugee rescue efforts, some gateway cities took on a new role of refugee protection and accommodation. These “cities of refuge” created safe havens for refugees while resisting Europe’s fear-inducing anti-immigrant regime and rising xenophobia. This article analyzes how Athens became an exemplary city of refuge. My ethnographic fieldwork (2017–2019) shows how collaboration among a left-wing municipality and network of local pro-refugee NGOs and activists effectively challenged right-wing populism, racism, and ultranationalism. Complicating current debates on cities of refuge as welcoming places, I argue that the power of Athens does not come from solving Europe’s so-called refugee crisis, erasing conflict, or undoing rampant fear of the Muslim refugee. To the contrary, the city of refuge is built from the bottom up through high levels of political contestation. I argue that the politics of refuge is manifested through the everyday creation of safe (urban) places sustained by inclusion and juxtaposed against top-down securitized spaces that are upheld by fear and exclusion. Athens is a resilient city of refuge that stands as a bulwark against the EU’s border politics even amid economic crisis.
Many cities have adopted welcoming strategies, branding themselves as cities of welcome or of solidarity. Urban scholarship to date has interpreted these efforts either under the rubric of municipal governance reform or urban citizenship, frameworks which both sideline the role of civil society and social movements of refugees. Since these actors play crucial roles in negotiating the terms of solidarity, hospitality and inclusion, this paper brings together research perspectives from urban governance, civil society, and (migrant) mobilization literatures to gain a better understanding of the collaborative/competitive interactions between the key players engaged in this urban policy arena. This discussion reveals that the evolving practices and interrelations of municipalities, civil society actors and social movements of refugees imply opportunities, but also difficulties in building substantively welcoming arrival structures, highlighting the contested meaning of terms such as “solidarity city” in the contemporary constellation.
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Undocumented immigrant youths, known as the Dreamers, rose to exceptional prominence in the American immigrant rights movement in the 2000s and 2010s. The Dreamers had considerable success in presenting themselves as assimilated and hard-working patriots worthy of regularization. While this strategy worked well in the media and politics, it also created a distance between the Dreamers and less privileged groups of undocumented immigrants. In 2013, just when they were widely recognized as legitimate, the Dreamers made the remarkable move to change their strategy: rather than presenting themselves as model immigrants uniquely worthy of regularization, they began mobilizing for policies benefiting all undocumented migrants. By documenting and explaining this change in strategy, this paper addresses the broader question of what separates and binds privileged and underprivileged subgroups in social movements.
In such a singular context as the city of Naples in which the inclusion process of many refugees and asylum seekers is often weak and barely supported by the local institutions (for example in housing and educational policy), participatory planning among social groups might be the most efficient horizontal practice for answering to this issue. The starting point of this study is to consider the places of the city like devices in which relationships can be produced and transferred among citizens. Hence this contribution presents the main results achieved under a research-action project, This Must Be the Place (TMBP), that has aimed to work alongside with beneficiaries on creating social inclusion and to extend outcomes to many other actors through a rising effect. Social Network Analysis approach has been used to examine how individuals with different backgrounds play a relevant role within a network to facilitate inclusion in the urban context. Within the scope of the TMBP project, the following dimensions were examined: (a) reconstruction of the network of project participants and its evolution at different stages of the project; (b) understanding whether the relationships born within this facilitating context have been transferred outside the project (e.g.: in the places of the city and the daily life of participants); (c) understanding how the relationships have become essential resources to support the process of social and urban integration. This work shows that considering the interrelationship between urban space and horizontal network structures provides a strong basis for understanding and facilitating immigrant’s inclusion.
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In this article we combine field observation, interviews, cartographic and police data on nationality and illegality to analyse the social and economic mechanisms explaining the rising presence and social relations of irregular immigrants in the Schilderswijk (disreputable inner district) in the Dutch city of The Hague. Secondly, we pay attention to some unintended consequences of the restrictive policies, such as the rise in subsistence crime among irregular immigrants. Four factors are described that underline the structural nature of irregular migration: (1) the continuing immigration of non-western and East-European immigrants to the Netherlands; (2) a demand for cheap labour in specific (informal) sectors of the post-industrial economy and in remnants of industrial and agricultural sectors; (3) a steady supply of (informal) housing in poor urban districts provided by private (ethnic) households and big landlords; and (4) a demand for potential partners, partly partners who are in a dependent and powerless position.
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Globalization and the new information and communication technologies (ICTs) have enabled a variety of local political actors to enter international arenas once exclusive to national states. Multiple types of claim-making and oppositional politics articulate these developments. Going global has been partly facilitated and conditioned by the infrastructure of the global economy, even as the latter is often the object of those oppositional politics. The article examines these issues through a focus on various political practices and the technologies used, the latter an important part of the analysis partly because they remain understudied and misunderstood in the social sciences. Of particular interest is the possibility that local, often resource-poor organizations and individuals can become part of global networks and struggles. Further, the possibility of global imaginaries has enabled even those who are geographically immobile to become part of global politics. A key question organizing this article concerns the ways in which such localized actors and struggles can be constitutive of new types of global politics and subjectivities. The argument is that local, including geographically immobile and resource-poor, actors can contribute to the formation of global domains or virtual public spheres and thereby to a type of local political subjectivity that needs to be distinguished from what we would usually consider local.