Get access

The “Minor” Politics of Rightful Presence: Justice and Relationality in City of Sanctuary


  • This paper has been presented in various forms at Citizenship and Human Mobility: Migration, Asylum and Globalization, Institute of International Relations at PUC-Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, October 2010; the Centre of Citizenship Identities and Governance 17th Forum, Open University, UK, November 2010; the International Studies Association Annual Convention, Montreal, Canada, March 2011; and at the Europe and the World: The 7th Annual European Peace Research Association (EuPRA) General Conference, Tampere, Finland, July 20–22, 2011. We would like to thank the engaged audiences at these conferences, extending particular thanks to Jennifer Bagelman, Roxanne Lynn Doty, Carolina Moulin, Peter Nyers, and Mark B Salter. Thanks also to the three anonymous reviewers, and to the old and the new editorial teams at IPS for their constructive criticisms and patient support of this article. Finally, thanks to those members of City of Sanctuary who gave their time to this research.


This article examines how historical and geographical relations of injustice are “made present” through the activities of the City of Sanctuary network in Sheffield, the UK. In so doing, it exposes the limitations of conceptualizing and enacting sanctuary through the frame of hospitality, and proposes an analytics of “rightful presence” as an alternative frame with which to address contemporary sanctuary practices. In contrast to a body of scholarship and activism that has focused on hospitality as extending the bounds of citizenship to “include” those seeking refuge, we consider how the “minor” politics of City of Sanctuary potentially trouble the assumptions on which such claims to inclusion rest. Our emphasis on the “minor” politics of “making present” injustices is important in bringing to bear an account of justice that is grounded in concrete political struggles, in contrast to the more abstract notion of a justice “to come,” associated with some accounts of hospitality. To explore sanctuary practices through a relational account of justice brings to bear a politically attuned account of rightful presence, which potentially challenges pastoral relations of guest–host and the statist framing of sanctuary with which relations of hospitality are intimately bound. This is important, we conclude, in countering the assumption that including the excluded solves the “problem,” or relieves the “crisis,” of asylum.