Seeing like a border city: Refugee politics at the borders of city and nation-state

Julie Young
Published Year: 

Julie E.E. Young – Research Affiliate, Article

Young, Julie E.E. 2018. “Seeing like a border city: Refugee politics at the borders of city and nation-state.” Environment and Planning C: Politics and Space 0(0): 1-17.


Local advocacy practices in Detroit–Windsor in response to the refugee “crisis” that unfolded around the Canada–US border in early 1987 revealed a different way of working with the border in the city. They were “seeing like a border city”: working as though Detroit–Windsor were one place, even as they made use of the ways in which it remained two distinct places with different political and legal contexts. Advocates mobilized resources and expertise on both sides of the border, drawing on the sense of community offered by the city, and made use of the distinct policy frameworks, securing legal status for refugees who had been consigned to legal limbo through the policies of both states. This approach troubled the state’s logic of border control even as it refortified the boundaries of exclusion underlying it. Their work highlights the possibilities and limitations of advocacy work around an international boundary line.

Keywords: Border cities, Canada–US border, Detroit–Windsor, refugee policy, advocacy

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