Political Subjects at the Border: Rethinking Democracy from the Perspective of Migration
Theoretically, this paper refers to approaches of radical democracy by Jacques Rancière, Etienne Balibar, Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe. According to these approaches, democracy is not identified with the national institutions of representative democracy. Democracy is understood as an always-contested process, in which democratization should be understood as an infinite challenge. This allows for a theoretical reflection, which conceives those fighting for equality and freedom as political subjects regardless of their citizenship status. Thereby, the perspectives, demands, and desires expressed in migratory struggles prove to be decisive for the actualization of democracy. Empirically, the paper draws upon research on the organizing of migratory youth with precarious legal status in the US and Germany. Building on document analyses, participant observations and qualitative interviews, it perceives their fight against deportations and for a right to stay as practices of democracy.
By combining approaches of radical democracy as an analytical prism with the perspectives of migratory youth, this paper aims to contribute to current debates about democracy, political participation and social justice. Whereas illegalized migrants are excluded from national citizenship, their struggles actualize the radical meaning of citizenship and democracy and are therefore instructive for its reconceptualization.