We the Citizens? City subjectivities and the unmaking of irregularity

Stream: Panel 83 - Public Policy & Social Justice: Theories of Citizenship and Migration & Refugee Policy
Date: Wednesday, 28 September 2016
Time: 11.00 am – 12.30 pm


In a twenty-first century characterised by fears of national security, increased global flows of people have resulted in tighter border and immigration policies that aim to restrict migrant mobility and access to citizenship. Nation-states can, and do, define which subjects fit within their desired citizenship categories, and in the process, construct others that don’t. This article interrogates the misfit between state-held normative conceptions of citizenship – for example, as a mode of integration to ensure equality and national unity in plural societies – and the empirical reality of a “thick notion” of irregular citizenship: the contestation and enactments of citizenship by undocumented migrants taking place in the urban sphere. Using Marseille, France as a case study, I deploy the concept irregularity to analyse both the array of state mechanisms used to delimit membership and participation, and the everyday strategies of irregular citizens to contest these. I argue that the expressions of citizenship subjectivity emerging from civic participation and engagement reveal the city as a space for the unmaking of irregularity, one that embraces contextualised and localised forms of belonging. I further demonstrate how an increasingly multicultural France might better integrate diversity in ways that need not threaten the minimum shared values required for citizenship.


Abigail Taylor (Presenter), University of Sydney
Abi is a doctoral candidate at the Sydney Democracy Network and Department of Government and International Relations at the University of Sydney. Her research interests focus on destabilising our inherited concepts of the citizen and citizenship, and examining the ways in which irregular migrants juggle precariousness, vulnerability and bureaucracy to produce of new forms of citizenship and “being” political. Using the case study of the city of Marseille, her doctoral thesis offers fresh thinking on the potential of the city-as-refuge in the 21st century – in ways that the state is not – through an examination of the everyday practices, relationships, and contestations of non-citizens in and through the city and its spaces.

Abi holds a Bachelor of Political, Economic and Social Sciences (Hons I) degree from the University of Sydney, where she was also awarded the University Medal. Her previous research has focused on the relationship between sovereignty, rights, and outsiders, as applied to the contemporary regime of deterritorialised immigration detention.