City of Sanctuary: A State of Deferral

Bagelman, Jennifer (2012). City of Sanctuary: A State of Deferral. PhD thesis The Open University.

Abstract

Over the last decade, sanctuary has been evoked as an alternative to the problems associated with an exclusionary statist asylum regime. In Canada, the United States and Europe the ‘cities of sanctuary’ movement, which is articulated through various political vocabularies, has emerged. This movement conceives of sanctuary not simply as a church-based space where asylum seekers may be secured, but offers a host of welcoming practices within and beyond cities. This thesis specifically explores the UK-based City of Sanctuary movement, with a focus on the case of Glasgow, which has widely been read as exemplifying hospitality towards and empowerment of asylum seekers. Whilst a statist discourse of fear, a ‘politics of unease,’ positions migrants as a threat to be policed the City of Sanctuary aims to stimulate a softer approach. Yet this thesis illustrates how the City of Sanctuary is also mobilizing a deeply troubling ‘politics of ease.’ Based on a genealogical-ethnographic investigation, which traces an array of ancient and modem practices, I show how the politics of ease renders intractable the serious problem of protracted waiting that many asylum seekers face. In so doing, I demonstrate how the seemingly hospitable City of Sanctuary in fact contributes to a hostile asylum regime by indefinitely deferring and even extending a temporality of waiting. Although the City of Sanctuary may serve to smooth over and ease away this serious problem, this thesis also explores a myriad of minor practices that I indicate as challenging this waiting state.

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