Migrant Protests and Cosmopolitanism

Tamara Caraus's picture
Call for Papers
January 15, 2017
Subject Fields: 
Political Science, Philosophy, Immigration & Migration History / Studies

This Call for Papers concerns the relevance of migrant protests for the contemporary debates on cosmopolitanism. The edited volume will aim at a non-totalizing theory of cosmopolitanism and to a new way of conceiving cosmopolitanism, mainly contestatory and radical, as emerging from the current migrant resistance.

Argument: Migration and cosmopolitanism are consubstantial. In a very familiar understanding, cosmopolitanism means to be a citizen of the world, with no borders or, at least, with permeable borders. Migration means to move from one place to another. Thus, migration, without impediments, appears to be the natural starting point for a cosmopolitan view, and many theories of cosmopolitanism, as a rule, take the division of the globe into different nations and their borders as an obstacle for a cosmopolitan arrangement of the world. However, migration as practice turns out to be the biggest test for cosmopolitanism. The intensification of migration, through increasing number of refugees and economic migrants, generates anti-cosmopolitan stances: immigration is seen as a threat of overpopulation, a threat of denaturation of the values and identity of the receiving countries or as security threat. The economic migrant and the refugee increase the mass of noncitizens in the countries of destination and in the world in general, that is, the mass of persons who do not have political agency. Although this precarious status is far away from the ideal of a cosmopolitan citizen, it nevertheless produces a cosmopolitan vision of the world without borders, expressed especially in migrants' protests and resistance against the unjust world order.

Confronted with the problems of migrants and refuges, the current nation-state based way of doing and thinking politics shows its structural and conceptual limits. Despite its universalist commitment to the moral equality of all human beings, political theory, tailored for the framework of nation-state, sees the migrant as a problem and presumes that states have the right to control their borders and to exclude aliens from entitelments otherwise concieved as universal, like the right to life, equality, dignity, freedom of movement, etc. Current political theory cannot address migration without radically questioning itself. Thus, rather than being a marginal figure in (liberal) political theory, the migrant compels us to question its very foundations and imagine a new vision of a global political community, a post-national world made up of transnational belongings or of communities open to alterities. As Arendt suggests in “We refugees,” the condition of refugees and persons without a country has to be taken as a new paradigm for politics’ the refugees being the ‘avant-garde’. Thus, the main aim of this volume is to examine if and how refugees and immigrants can be the new paradigm of doing and theorizing politics and in what sense this new paradigm is a cosmopolitan one. More exactly, the volume examines how could migrants and refugees contribute to a cosmopolitan restructuring of the ways of understanding and doing politics, what are the migrant practices and actions with a cosmopolitan potential, and how migrants are the cosmopolitan avant-garde of the world. The challenge is then to recuperate the co-substantiality of cosmopolitanism and migration and, for this purpose, the volume turns from the perspective of citizen to the perspective of the migrant by analyzing migrant protests such as Sans Papiers, No One Is Illegal, No Borders, marches A Day Without Us, migrant protests related to Lampedusa or Calais camps, and others migrant protests from the last decade.

Questions: Here are the questions to be addressed and analyzed in the envisaged volume: What are the points of intersection between migrant protests and various understandings of cosmopolitanism? How to differentiate cosmopolitan aspects of migrant protests from non-cosmopolitan ones? Are migrant protests a political avant-garde, in terms of identifying new possibilities for politics? In what way is this avant-garde cosmopolitan? Are the protests (automatically) cosmopolitan or these should be complemented by the universality of new claims in order to ‘qualify’ as cosmopolitan? Is there a democratic potential of these protests? How do migrants’ protests shape cosmopolitan democracy beyond borders? What is radical in migrant protests? How does this radicalness shape migrant cosmopolitanism?  Is there a cosmopolitan subjectivity of migrant protesters? How are collective and cosmopolitan subjectivities constituted through migrant protests? How do migrants and pro-migrant activists from different milieu come together and forge relations and shared understandings expressing a cosmopolitan solidarity?

We invite interested scholars worldwide to explore these questions and to contribute with texts written in English language to a special issue/a book with the working title Cosmopolitanism and Migrant Protests that will be published by an internationally renowned and academically authoritative publishing house/ or academic journal.

Methodology: The envisaged volume aims to analyze the collective migrant protests in the context of the explosion of political mobilizations by irregular migrants and pro-migrant activists in the last decade, with the aim to contribute to the growing body of scholarship on migrant resistance movements and to consider the implications of these struggles for a cosmopolitan restructuring of political theory and of the world. The main method of the volume would consist in a close-reading, from the perspective of political theories of cosmopolitanism, of discourses produced by migrant protests movements: manifestos, declarations, websites, and other texts explaining the necessity of protests and resistance. A minimal background of each case should be provided, describing the context generating the protest and the main outcomes of this form of action. However, the papers are not expected to be primarily a case study of an episode of protest; rather we expect  the papers to focus on the concept of cosmopolitanism as it emerges from migrant protests, for example: cosmopolitan avant-garde of migrant protests; cosmopolitan solidarity of migrants and pro-migrant activists; the emergence of a cosmopolitan political subjectivity within migrant protests; rejection of migrants’ illegality and its cosmopolitan aspects; politics of visibility/invisibility of migrant struggles; claiming and enacting rights through action and practice; protests as a radical critique which aims at the foundations of the current global system; protests as a democratic action beyond borders, but also the risks of migrant activism to be captured by the logic and practices of state sovereignty, and other aspects.

TIMETABLE: Deadline for proposals submission of 500 words abstracts and contact details is January 15, 2017.  All those who will send abstract proposals will be notified on the decision of the editing team on February 1, 2017.  The deadline for the paper is June 1, 2017.


Contact Info: 

Tamara Caraus, Research Institute of the University of Bucharest/ICUB - Social Science Division, Str. Panduri 90-92, sector 6, Bucharest, Romania, http://icub.unibuc.ro/index.php/social-sciences0