Heidi Moksnes, Senior Lecturer, Department of Social Anthropology, Stockholm University

Living without Rights: Undocumented Migrants and the Boundaries of Citizenship

Heidi Moknes
Heidi Moknes

The Swedish discussion on undocumented migrants generally centres on people who have applied for, and been denied, political asylum. Like many other countries, Sweden is however also recipient of people who, without official permits, come here to work for money, many staying for years. Following undocumented Latin Americans living and working in the Stockholm region, I investigate in this project to what extent and how these migrants are able to constitute themselves as social and political participants in a Swedish society of which they are de-facto members but formally excluded from and highly vulnerable in. I focus on how undocumented migrants address their exclusion from three central dimensions of citizenship: first, the access to certain rights; secondly, membership in a demos, a self-ruling political community; and thirdly, being part of an ethnos, a community fostering a sense of collective identity and communitarian ethos. Ultimately, I address the conflict between the universal right to have rights versus the sovereignty of nation-states to define and protect citizen rights.

So far, I have followed Latin Americans exerting political agency and gaining access to certain rights through union work in the Syndicalist Registret (SACs Västerorts LS). Registret was also the locus for the formation of a certain ethnos, organizing a broad range of activities, which complemented the ethnos provided through Latin American churches and sports clubs. However, last year, Västerorts LS was closed down by SAC, and thus, I am searching new routes for investigation.

Heidi Moksnes holds a PhD in social anthropology from University of Gothenburg, and has been a researcher at Uppsala Centre for Sustainable Development at Uppsala University. Her earlier research focused on the constitution of agency among marginalized indigenous peoples in Mexico. Since July 1, she is lecturer at the Department of Social Anthropology, Stockholm University.

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