The workshop on ‘Citizenship, Identity and Otherness’ was held on 7th November 2013 as part of Oecumene’s Fourth Symposium.
The workshop included one presentation, a number of interventions and an open discussion that included all participants. The workshop focused on the intersections of legal regimes and wider processes of ‘orientalization’. In particular, there was a rigorous examination of Spanish immigration law and the manner in which it becomes the site for the construction of legal, political and cultural ‘otherness’.
’s presentation provided the starting point for the discussion. Barbero’s paper outlined how Spanish immigration law could be interrogated as the site for the creation and maintenance of ‘otherness’. He identified how the legal regime engaged in the process of defining ‘Spanishness’ using mechanisms such as the requirements for ‘integration’ involved in the acquisition of Spanish citizenship. More significantly, he pointed out how these regulations discriminated against particular migrant communities (primarily Muslims from North African nations) and how this discrimination could be linked back to wider, historically established discourses pitting ‘the moor’ as the political and cultural other.
Nando Sigona (University of Birmingham) and Jo Shaw (University of Edinburgh) provided extended responses to Barbero’s presentation. Two key points were raised; firstly, they suggested that it would be more productive to use orientalisation as a broad analytical framework for the examination of immigration law rather than positing it as a causal factor in the development of discriminatory immigration policies. Secondly, they encouraged comparing the Spanish case to other EU states and more broadly an examination of the relations between policies and processes at the national and EU levels.
A vigorous open discussion followed the two extended commentaries. Participants agreed on the need to examine how different stakeholders including different levels of government, the judiciary, NGOs, and the migrants intervened in the field of immigration law. A note of caution was sounded in relation to the tendency towards homogenizing the Muslim migrant community in academic discourse. It was agreed that factors such as class and place of origin needed to be accounted for in order to develop a more differentiated picture of the migrant communities and their interaction with immigration regimes. The three-hour workshop ended with a clear recognition of the value and relevance of examining immigration law a site for the negotiation of national identity and citizenship.
Report by Pawas Bisht