Voluntary Illegality: Political Lawbreaking and Ideas of Citizenship in Young Activists’ Practices of Help Towards Migrants

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 16:30
Oral Presentation
Ilaria PITTI, Örebro University, Örebro, Sweden
Valeria PIRO, University of Bologna, Italy
Following the so-called European migrant crisis, a series of critiques addressing the inadequacy of EU’s management of the phenomenon of migration have emerged both at the institutional level and in civil society. The outdatedness of the model of citizenship conveyed by the current European laws on migration has been denounced by several grassroots social movements that, especially at local level, have proposed alternative solutions to address the issues of migrants’ welcoming and integration. In many cases, young people have been at the forefront in this fight for a more inclusive Europe and, refusing the distinction between “legal” and “illegal” people, have engaged in different experiences of solidarity aimed at helping all incoming migrants. In so doing, they have frequently gone against the law in order to pursue a different idea of citizenship.

Aiming at reflecting on the relationship between citizenship and political lawbreaking, the presentation intends to show how, in young people’s perspective, “illegal” practices of involvement becomes a mean perceived as necessary to give substance to an idea of citizenship able to put the respect of human dignity ahead to the loyalty to outdated laws.

The proposal focuses on the analysis of two case studies consisting in projects of solidarity towards migrants and asylum seekers carried out by two radical left social movements in Italy and Sweden. Both groups are composed by young people aged between 20 and 30. Subjected to harsh repression, the considered projects imply the adoption of a series of "illegal" practices of participation, such as occupation of abandoned spaces for the creation of shelters and other forms of help to "illegal" migrants. The data have been collected through ethnography and biographical interviews with young activists conducted between 2015 and 2017 within the projects Youthblocs (Horizon 2020 –MSCA) and Partispace (Horizon 2020 – Excellent Science).