The politics of refugee solidarity in Greece: Bordered identities and political mobilization

February 2, 2018

The first working paper of the MigSol project (Migration Solidarity and Acts of Citizenship along the Balkan Route) has been published by Celine Cantat, reseach fellow at CEU CPS.


This paper sets out to address some of the conceptual and theoretical issues emerging around migrant solidarity and anti-racist initiatives in Greece. Starting from experiences gathered through fieldwork research, it attempts to relate existing scholarship on migration, solidarity and migrants' activism with embedded situations and debates. As explained in this first section, this approach is animated by a desire to re-embed studies of borders and border experiences in their situated contexts. This follows a recent call by critical border studies scholar Paolo Novak (2017) to bring scholarly enquiries "back to borders". While over the last couple of decades, there have been important critical scholarly contributions to the fields of border and migration studies, there has been a tendency across the literature to start with pre-defined understandings of what borders are and how they function. In contrast, I propose to root this literature review in the particular situated context that it refers to. I use discussions and testimonies by migrants and solidarians collected in the field as an analytical thread in order to guide my selection of scholarly literature. In other words, rather than initiating a dialogue between different strands of literature based on existing debates, I attempt to present conceptual and theoretical insights on the basis of fieldwork observations, and to think through the current functioning of borders in Greece, and the struggles unfolding in order to resist bordering effects, from a situated, embodied perspective. The four following sections thus reflect on the key debates and tensions that I encountered during my fieldwork with anti-racist and migrant solidarity initiatives in Greece. First, I discuss the idea that Greece now presents itself as a "double frontier" for migrants, due to the recent restriction of migrants' mobilities from the Greek islands to the mainland. I analyse how these new spatialities structure the experience of migrants and their allies. Second, I explore debates concerned with the meaning and nature of solidarity, and how these have recently evolved in the face of the double crisis experienced by Greece. I reflect in particular on the way solidarians negotiate between the political and humanitarian aspects of solidarity. Third, I propose the notion of "kinetic politics", to examine the ways in which solidarians and migrants in Greece work towards the broadening of the boundaries of the political through a recognition of the role played by movement in experiencing and defining politics. Finally, I mobilise strands of critical literature concerned with migration, rights and citizenship to investigate some of the debates among solidarians and migrants in Greece regarding the framing of claims and the choice of political strategies.

The politics of refugee solidarity in Greece: Bordered identities and political mobilization (Download)