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The Centre on Social Movement Studies

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Contentious subjects: Spatial and relational perspectives on refugee mobilizations in Europe

Elias Steinhilper and Ilker Ataç

The chapter seeks to understand how precarious migrants (temporarily) succeed in organizing political protest against all evident odds. Comparing episodes of refugee activism in Austria and Germany, the analysis explores specific geographies of control in restrictive asylum regimes, and spatial repertoires to overcome them.

Picture description
Type: Chapter in edited book
Year: 2019

Political protest by ‘refugees’ has proliferated worldwide, yet has only received marginal attention in social movement studies. According to dominant movement theories, migrants are unlikely subjects of mobilization due to legal obstacles (including ‘deportability’), limited economic and social capital and closed political and discursive opportunities. Building upon recent innovations in contentious politics, which stress the ‘relational qualities of space’, the authors comparatively sketch out and theorize processes of self-organized refugee activism in Austria and Germany. It is argued that experiences of isolation and exclusion from society have fundamentally shaped the life-worlds of ‘refugees’ and the contentious strategies they have chosen to overcome spaces of control and disintegration: mobile tactics such as marches and bus tours as well as autonomous camps and occupied buildings are central components of refugees’ repertoire of contention across the two national contexts the authors explored. In both cases, appropriating and accessing spaces with favourable relational qualities was crucial for transforming localized dissent into larger mobilizations.

Steinhilper, Elias and Ilker Ataç (2019): Contentious Subjects. Spatial and Relational Perspectives on Refugee Mobilizations in Europe. In: K. Mitchell, R. Jones and J. F. Fluri: Handbook on Critical Geographies of Migration. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.

https://www.elgaronline.com/view/edcoll/9781786436023/9781786436023.00039.xml

News

05/03/2019

A dialogue on labour, trade unions and conflicts

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On the 22nd of March, from 4pm to 7pm, Donatella della Porta (Scuola Normale Superiore) and Maurizio Landini (Secretary General of CGIL) will discuss about labour, trade unions and conflicts.

05/02/2019

Call for Papers - Social Movements and Parties in a Fractured Media Landscape

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The call for papers is now open for a two-day symposium held under the auspices of the journal ‘Information, Communication & Society’ (iCS) at the Centre on Social Movement Studies, 1-2 July 2019.

04/02/2019

17 Fully funded 4-years PhD positions in Political Science and Sociology and in Transnational Governance, Scuola Normale Superiore

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The grant is for 4 years. It is open to students of all nationalities. Coverage of research expenses (conferences, summer schools, research periods abroads) is provided.

Publications

Journal Article - 2019

Ballots and barricades enhanced: far‐right ‘movement parties’ and movement‐electoral interactions

Andrea Pirro
This contribution enhances our understanding of the contemporary far right by focusing on the neglected links between movements and elections within the broader context of contention.

Journal Article - 2019

From the Rainy Place to the Burnt Palace: How Social Movements Form their Political Strategies. The Case of the Six Federations of the Tropic of Cochabamba

Leonidas Oikonomakis
Exploring the case of the cocaleros of the Chapare, this article argues that more emphasis should be placed on mechanisms that are internal to the movements, such as: (a) the resonance of other political experiences at home and abroad, (b) internal struggles for ideological hegemony, and (c) the political formation of their grassroots.