A Scientific Initiative on/for Border Abolitionism


12 March - 12 March 2024

Infrastructuring squats as undocumented: illegalized people navigating the reception industry and solidarity rhetoric

Preliminary findings of the 1st node of Belgium’s Ethnographic Antennea, Brown Bag seminar at the Center of Ethnic and Migration Studies – CEDEM, Institute for Social Science Research (IRSS), University of Liège

Liège, Belgium

Is it possible to rethink the infrastructures facilitating dwelling for individuals suspended for administrative reasons, i.e. lacking residency requirements or waiting for asylum procedures beyond the mainstream frameworks of humanitarianism, political action and charity? Can we read such practices on the basis of non-Western agencies and worldviews ? Based on a case-study of the infrastructuring practices of undocumented squatters in Brussels, this communication underlines the intricate web of squat infrastructuring practices among non-citizens and citizens. Ethnographic engagement, including shadowing undocumented leaders and conversations with undocumented squatters, activists and stakeholders, unveils dynamics extending beyond assumed roles of activist groups and humanitarian support, challenging singular attributions of this manifestation of solidarity to the citizens.

Preliminary insights reveal how undocumented squatters, facing expulsion threats, actively navigate their vulnerability and that of others, incorporating themselves into networks of reception and solidarity. This intentional engagement sketches relations and non-conventional practices aiming at opening an interstice within the reception industry. In this pursuit, overcoming expulsion susceptibility, dependence on aid and also irregularity are negotiated through performative citizenship and accented solidarity rhetoric.

When: 12 March 2024

Place: Bâtiment 31, Pl. des Orateurs 3, Liège, Belgium

Researcher: I. Oubad