Sanctuary and Insurgent Memory

Authors: Katharyne Mitchell*, University of California, Santa Cruz
Topics: Political Geography, Cultural Geography, Immigration/Transnationalism
Keywords: sanctuary, memory, politics, feminist, insurgency
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/9/2021
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:20 PM
Room: Virtual 42
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Recently there has been a resurgence of sanctuary practices in contemporary struggles over migration. With the rise of far-right populism and the spread of white nationalist sentiment worldwide, refugees are increasingly at risk. To combat the violence of the present, and to carve out zones of safety, migrant activists have turned to the ethics, practices, and spaces of sanctuary. Sanctuary, which comes from the Latin sanctus, meaning “holy,” has played a strategic role in political resistance for hundreds of years. Today the concept has returned as one of vital importance in the terrain of radical politics. I am interested in how this terrain relies on what I, along with my co-author Key MacFarlane, term “memories of insurgency,” where older concepts and practices (such as sanctuary) are used to transform the spaces and possibilities of the present. Drawing on the feminist perspectives of the geosocial and the global intimate, we look at the importance of sanctuary as a strategy for radical politics. As a concept and set of practices, sanctuary possesses the capacity to contest the existing “order” of things – to open up another world. This world is not found in the future. Spaces of sanctuary reach back to the past. They draw on and “recollect” older, alternative relationships and traditions of resistance. One of the main implications of this thinking is that in order to understand sanctuary and insurgency we need to reinvestigate questions of space and time.

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