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School of Politics and International Relations

2nd Conference in Critical Migration and Border Studies: Keynote Lecture 2, 'Heads I Win, Tails You Lose! Challenging the Worker Citizen'

2 September 2015

Time: 11:30am - 1:30pm
Venue: Mile End Campus, Francis Bancroft Building, David Sizer Lecture Theatre

Title: 'Heads I Win, Tails You Lose! Challenging the Worker Citizen'

Speaker: Bridget Anderson, Professor of Migration and Citizenship, COMPAS (Centre of Migration, Policy and Society), University of Oxford

Welfare scroungers’, like ‘immigrants’ are the target of considerable political hostility. We are told that migrants take jobs, putting citizens on the dole, but at the same time hard working migrants are contrasted with lazy citizens cushioned by welfare payments. The relation between welfare benefits and migration is high on the agenda and it is important to develop practical and political responses. How can we reject the claim that migrants and citizens are competitors for the privileges of membership? In approaching this question I will centralise not ‘migrants’ but citizenship in order to explore how differences between ‘migrants’ and citizens are forged and sustained in law and social practice. I will begin by examining how citizenship is made and what this reveals about citizenship as a legal status through considering firstly naturalisation and the laws and policies that govern how foreigners become citizens, and secondly immigration and enforcement practices which are the flipside of naturalisation in the ways they literally make the difference between migrant and citizens. I will argue that these promote a fantasy of citizenship that imagines legal citizenship equates to full inclusion. Yet, migrants aside, it is clear that citizenship is being evacuated of much of its social content. I will examine how unemployment benefits and working tax credits expose the rise of the worker citizen which is problematic for both excluded (migrants) and failed (unemployed/low waged) subjects. I will conclude by suggesting that as well as a free standing subject of study migration can be a lens through which to study societies. In this way the study of migration is as important for what it reveals about ‘us’ as it is for what it reveals about ‘them’.

Open to all. Contact Dr Leonie Ansems De Vries for further details

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