Workshop: Migrant solidarity in theory and practice

Mervi Leppäkorpi & Laura Sumari, University of Helsinki

On the broad field of work with migrants, there are intentions to categorize different organizations and actors of civil society that participate in supporting people who have been excluded or categorized as “others”. Among those organizations, a division is made to humanitarian and solidarity-based actors.

Solidarity is often used to describe and explain normative social integration of societies, as opposed to maximizing self-interest, order-based coercion as well as chaos and conflict. But it can also refer to social movements criticizing prevailing injustices in a society. As solidarity is based on ‘we-thinking’, the social movements often construct their logic as something separate from the ‘thou-centric’ logic of charity and humanitarianism.

“Solidarity” can be understood as “group unity”, something that makes people combine their efforts and keeps them together in the sense of “one for all and all for one”, usually to oppose and fight together against different forms of injustice or oppression. Although there are intentions to divide the logics of humanitarianism and solidarity, there are also contributions for looking humanitarianism as form of solidarity. Others frame humanitarianism as a form of anti-politics (cf. Ticktin 2011).

Even if solidarity is understood as something different than helping and humanitarianism, there are contributions suggesting, that the functional logics of organizations would not differ as much as their ideology. Especially in Greece case Rozakou and Cabot and others show how the ideologies transform into a complex practice, where solidarity work takes forms of humanitarianism.

In this workshop we welcome theoretical and empirical contributions to migrant solidarity work in Finnish or English. This session welcomes topics ranging from, but not limited to:

  • Solidarity and humanitarianism as problem of definition
  • Understanding “us” in solidarity work
  • Politicization – or de-politization – of solidarity
  • The role of solidarity during humanitarian crises
  • Possibilities and impossibilities of institutionalizing solidarity

Some readings related to this workshop

Cabot, Heath (2016): ‘Contagious’ solidarity: reconfiguring care and citizenship in Greece’s social clinics. Social Anthropology 24, 2 152–166.

Laitinen, Arto & Pessi, Anne Birgitta (2014): Solidarity: Theory and Practice. An Introduction. In Solidarity: Theory and Practice, edited by Arto Laitinen, and Anne Birgitta Pessi, Lexington Books.

Mitchell, Katharyne and Sparke, Matthew (2018): Hotspot geopolitics versus geosocial solidarity: Contending constructions of safe space for migrants in Europe. Society and Space, 0(0) 1–21.

Rozakou, Katerina (2017): Solidarity #Humanitarianism: The Blurred Boundaries of Humanitarianism in Greece. Etnofoor, 29(2).

Scholtz, Sally (2008): Political Solidarity. University Park: Penn State University Press.

Theodossopoulos, Dimitrios (2016): Philanthropy or solidarity? Ethical dilemmas about humanitarianism in crisis‐afflicted Greece. Social Anthropology, 24:2, 167-184.

Ticktin, Miriam (2011): Casualties of Care. Immigration and the Politics of Humanitarianism in France. London: University of California Press.