“Precariousness and belonging” captures the ideas of a global debate on citizenship, migration and socio-economic mobility

An interdisciplinary group of leading academics from UC Santa Cruz has released a new book titled Insecurity & Belonging which culminates in more than five years of collaborative research and discussion around the themes of global migration, citizenship and marginalization.

The project began in the spring of 2016, when professor of Latin American and Latin American Studies Catherine Ramírez organized a series of events called “Borders and Belonging” to bring together migration experts from across campus and the world. whole. From there, the conversation continued through the fall of 2016 and into the spring of 2017, thanks to a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation that enabled UC Santa Cruz to organize a series. of Sawyer seminar events on forced migration, labor and citizenship. .

The book Insecurity and belonging captures the ideas that emerged from these gatherings. Ramírez collaborated with Associate Professor of Latin American and Latin American Studies Sylvanna Falcón, Professor of Literature Juan Poblete, Associate Professor of Sociology Steve McKay and Professor of Feminist Studies Felicity Amaya Schaeffer to co-edit a volume highlighting featured 23 backers from around the world. Ramírez, Poblete and Schaeffer also contributed chapters.

“Ultimately our book is about mobility and stillness, and by mobility we refer to both physical movement and movement according to socio-economic criteria,” Ramírez said.

Insecurity and belonging explores these themes in relation to three interrelated concepts: migration, the legal and social elements of belonging, and precariousness, which is a measure of vulnerability and socio-economic risk. Associate professor of sociology Steve McKay says the term precariousness originated in Europe to describe rising unemployment and inadequate and shrinking social safety nets.

“In some ways, Europe was just catching up with the rest of the world, where it has been for a very long time,” McKay said. “Unfortunately, precariousness has become more and more common, both as a theoretical framework and as a lived experience. “

Insecurity and belonging offers a comprehensive look at this concept, particularly with a focus on the United States.

“When we talk about the American dream, it’s often celebrated as upward mobility: the story ‘from wealth to wealth’,” Ramírez said. “But what we are actually seeing in this country, and what we have seen for decades, is a decrease in wealth among the majority and downward mobility according to many different indices of well-being, health and wealth. . “

The authors of the book particularly wanted to illustrate how precariousness affects people through citizenship statuses.

“There is a specter of precariousness and belonging that connects people who have very few formal claims to citizenship status with people whose full claims to status have been devalued by changing economic conditions, globalization, politics and racism, ”said literature professor Juan. Poblete. “This includes undocumented workers as well as a white blue collar citizen who was laid off by a large, disappearing factory in the Midwest.”

Ramírez explained that traditional notions of citizenship and belonging focus on “people who fully participate in society and its institutions: those who sit on juries, vote and own their homes”. But for many American citizens, economic participation in institutions such as homeownership is increasingly inaccessible. Meanwhile, legal rights, like the right to vote, may be denied to citizens who have been incarcerated or who simply live in states that have made voting more difficult, for example. And institutionalized prejudice has long eroded the legal, social, and economic rights of Americans on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, and many other factors.

“We end up with this gradation of citizenship and belonging, where you have people who experience full citizenship, while others are treated as locals who live in one place but are essentially second-class citizens or citizens. extremely well integrated non-citizens, ”says Ramirez. “And then you have the alien or the alien who is considered an intruder.”

Insecurity and belonging sheds new light on the degradation of citizenship while insisting on shared precariousness to lead to a new “common policy”. The book envisions a future in which people work together to break down barriers across the belonging spectrum while improving the quality of life for all.

“It may seem almost paradoxical to try to bring some of these groups together, because it has been so extraordinarily effective for politicians to pit them against each other,” Poblete said. “But the basis of community politics is the fact that your destiny is tied to solving all the issues that affect these other people as well. Because without that, there will be no social peace.

Insecurity and belonging may not offer all the answers on what it would take to achieve a community policy, but the book’s co-editors believe that inviting a global discussion on this topic is an essential step forward. And they are proud to have positioned the university as the organizer of these efforts.

“It’s exciting because I think UC Santa Cruz is doing something unusual in that we often have multidisciplinary approaches to big systemic issues,” McKay said. “It’s that kind of broad thinking and bringing people together – not just from different disciplines, but also from all over the world – that makes this book a unique project at UC Santa Cruz.”

the Research Center for the Americas will host a book launch event for “Precariousness and Belonging” on November 9, with a discussion between the co-editors. Stay tuned to the RCA website for updates on full event details.

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