Reeling in newcomers. Urban competition around migrant reception in Brussels

Authors: Eva Swyngedouw*, VUB
Topics: Urban Geography, Migration, Europe
Keywords: urban competition; migrant governance; diversity management; citizenship struggles
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/10/2018
Start / End Time: 2:40 PM / 4:20 PM
Room: Galvez, , Marriott, 5th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The management of ethnic diversity is generally considered to be an issue that is dealt with by national governments. Increasingly, however, we observe that new institutional articulations and implementations of diversity governance and, more in particular, newcomer governance, are emerging at the city level. In this regard, scholars like Isin (2002) and Bourdieu (1999) consider the city to be a battleground where groups define their identity and articulate their citizenship rights. In this paper, I build on these insights to argue that competition over newcomer reception between different linguistically divided political factions in the city of Brussels are mainly struggles over citizenship. Building on a year-long ethnography within a Flemish reception office in Brussels, I will describe the different strategies they use to recruit and retain newcomers. I argue that recruitment is a deliberate tool to impact the demographics of the city and destabilize the linguistic equilibrium of Brussels. In this way, recruitment becomes a means to attract newcomers to the reception offices in the hope they will develop a deep connection and loyalty to and eventually identify politically with the agencies’ respective political community. Theoretically, this paper develops a perspective that regards the city as a field that becomes constituted in and through the competition between different urban institutions to reel in newcomers. In this space, these institutions take up positions for and against each other and assemble strategies to impact urban populations.

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