CONTESTED SPACES OF CITIZENSHIP is a postgraduate conference organised by Durham University’s Department of Geography.

The conference takes place on Wednesday 29 April 2015 (Room W007).

The keynote speaker is Professor Engin F. Isin. 

Space is at the core of political struggles and contestations. Brown (2010) highlights how borders and territory are, almost paradoxically, increasingly important in a globalised world. In this neoliberal era borders are apparently more detached from their geographical location (Sassen 2005; Bigo and Guild 2005), yet an increase in international migration has highlighted the violence at the borderzone (Bigo 2007). Along with the idea of a borderless world a new form of spatial management became relevant, the space of camp (Agamben 1998; Minca 2005) that is proliferating as a way of managing those who trouble the territorial order, such as the Roma (Sigona 2005), refugees and asylum-seekers (Hyndman 2000), and undocumented migrants (De Genova and Peutz 2010). At the same time, these camps also produce new forms of resistance and everyday practices (Ramadan 2013; Sigona 2014).

In this postgraduate conference the notion of political space will be investigated in relation to the concept of citizenship. Citizenship is more than membership, it is a way of being political (Isin 2002) that emerges through struggles. Citizenship is also fundamentally spatial: space “is a fundamental strategic property by which groups […] are constituted in the real world” (Isin 2002, p. 49). Space is crucial to the creation, embodiment and lived experiences of political subjects. It is in spaces of encounter and struggles that new and old political subjectivities are contested and resisted. Space is not only the neutral background of political struggles. It is actively and strategically used, as tool to disempower abject subjects (Isin and Rygiel 2007), but also as a resource for enacting new scripts of activist citizens, not only through contestation but also through solidarity (Isin and Nielsen 2008). At the same time, space is constituted by political struggles and forms of citizenship, affecting the ways in which new political subjects come to emerge, for instance traversing and interstitial spaces can generate opportunities to rethink political subjectivities (Isin 2012).

This one-day conference aims to bring together postgraduate students working on issues of politics and space, territory and borders as sites of struggles, control, contestation, resistance and solidarity among political subjects. We also encourage papers based upon collaborative and participatory research. In order to develop a critical and interdisciplinary approach to the relation between citizenship, space and contestation we welcome papers addressing, but not limited to, the following questions:

  • How can investigating the spatial dimension of contestation develop new understandings of citizenship and political subjectivities?

  • What can Isin’s concept of ‘acts of citizenship’ bring to understandings of contested spaces?

  • What can an attention to spatiality bring to the understanding of the affective dimensions of citizenship?

  • What spaces of encounter and/or struggle open up new political subjectivities?

  • How does investigating cyberspace as a ‘contested space’ open up new ways of thinking about politics and citizenship? What new forms of resistance emerge in cyberspace?

  • To what extent do citizen subjects create solidarity with abject citizens? What new political subjectivities emerge from these acts of solidarity?

  • How do the contested spaces of the border reconfigure, challenge and perform new political subjectivities?

Please note that space is limited at this conference, and so we warmly encourage abstracts that are directly related to the conference topic. Successful submissions will be contacted by the end of February 2015.

The conference organisers are Gaja Maestri, Sarah Hughes, and Sam Slatcher. They ask that abstracts of no more than 250 words by 20 January 2015 should be sent to:, or

Agamben, Giorgio. 1998. Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press.

Bigo, Didier. 2007. “Detention of Foreigners, States of Exceptio, and the Social Practices of Control and the Banopticon.” In Borderscapes. Hidden Geographies and Politics at Territory’s Edge, edited by Prem Kumar Rajaram and Carl Grundy-Warr, 3–34. Borderlines. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Bigo, Didier, and Espelth Guild, eds. 2005. Controlling Frontiers: Free Movement into and Within Europe. London: Ashgate.

Brown, Wendy. 2010. Walled States, Waning Sovereignty. New York: Zone Books.

De Genova, N., and N. Peutz, eds. 2010. The Deportation Regime: Sovereignty, Space, and the Freedom of Movement. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Hyndman, Jennifer. 2000. Managing Displacement: Refugees and the Politics of Humanitarianism. Vol. 16. Borderline. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Isin, Engin. 2002. Being Political: Genealogies of Citizenship. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

———. 2012. Citizens Without Frontiers. London-New York: Continuum International Publishing Group.

Isin, Engin, and Greg M. Nielsen. 2008. Acts of Citizenship. London-New York: Zed Books.

Isin, Engin, and Kim Rygiel. 2007. “Abject Spaces: Frontiers, Zones, Camps.” In The Logics of Biopower and the War on Terror : Living, Dying, Surviving, edited by Elizabeth Dauphinee and Christina Masters, 181–203. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Minca, Claudio. 2005. “The Return of the Camp.” Progress in Human Geography 29 (4): 405–12.

Ramadan, Adam. 2013. “Spatialising the Refugee Camp.” Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 38 (1).

Sassen, Saskia. 2005. “When National Territory Is Home to the Global: Old Borders to Novel Borderings.” New Political Economy 10 (4): 523–41.

Sigona, Nando. 2005. “Locating the ‘Gypsy Problem.” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 31 (4): 741–56.

———. 2014. “Campzenship: Reimagining the Camp as a Social and Political Space.” Citizenship Studies.