Urban and Urbanization

The city in the age of Trumpism: From sanctuary to abolition

The city as sanctuary is an ancient concept. As a modern practice in North America and Europe, it has entailed refuge for subjects rendered illegal and placeless by the state, be it asylum-seekers or undocumented immigrants. Sanctuary thus reveals the terms of protection through which liberal democracies recognize and include racial others. In the age of Trumpism, sanctuary jurisdictions have become a key terrain of struggle in the United States, connoting resistance to white nationalism and the defiance of federal immigration policy. However, the concept of sanctuary requires scrutiny. In this paper, I demonstrate that the current meaning of sanctuary in the United States has limited scope, relying on, rather than limiting, police power. Seeking to disrupt such forms of liberal inclusion, I turn to a more expansive ethico-political inquiry concerned with hospitality. Such inquiry demands engagement with colonial and imperial histories. At stake is a rethinking of liberal and cosmopolitan traditions of Western humanism, those that seek to provide sanctuary from the place of Europe or the free city. Once conceptualized as the threshold of empire, these territories are no longer sanctuary for the illegal and placeless but instead expressions of state violence and thus grounds for abolition.

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Volume 37 Issue 5

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