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Citizenship Studies

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Changing landscapes of urban citizenship:

Southern Europe in times of crisis

Alexandra Zavos, Penny (Panagiota) Koutrolikou & Dimitra Siatitsa

To cite this article: Alexandra Zavos, Penny (Panagiota) Koutrolikou & Dimitra Siatitsa (2017)
Changing landscapes of urban citizenship: Southern Europe in times of crisis, Citizenship Studies,
21:4, 379-392, DOI: 10.1080/13621025.2017.1307601

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Citizenship Studies, 2017
VOL. 21, NO. 4, 379–392

Changing landscapes of urban citizenship: Southern Europe

in times of crisis
Alexandra Zavosa, Penny (Panagiota) Koutrolikoub and Dimitra Siatitsac
Department of Social Policy, Center for Gender Studies, Panteion University, Athens, Greece; bSchool of
Architecture, National Technical University of Athens, Athens, Greece; cIndependent Researcher, Athens,


Since the 2008 financial crisis, politics of austerity in Europe have Received 8 June 2016
engendered far-reaching socioeconomic and political transformations. Accepted 15 December 2016
The recent refugee ‘crisis’ has also deeply affected the sociopolitical
terrain. Contrary to past arguments about the reduced significance of Urban citizenship; South
the nation state, Europe is experiencing a resurgence of nationalisms. Europe; crisis; austerity
Simultaneously, often as a counter-response, several European cities
are experiencing an emergence of social practices that claim urban
politics as a dynamic field of action and contestation potentially
transcending national boundaries. Such practices tended to adopt
a ‘right to the city’ approach. Currently, we observe a greater range
of argumentations that re-signify the arena of ‘urban citizenship.’ In
this paper, we discuss how crises and the urban intersect and affect
citizenship rights and practices in different cities in Southern Europe.
From a ‘meta-analysis’ of urban claims and practices, we argue that,
starting at the municipal level, urban citizenship reconfigures the
political. Through the entanglement of different scales and actors,
emerging practices of solidarity and needs-based claims, and
alliances between differently entitled subjects, involving both natives
and foreigners, challenge and reshape institutions of governance
and reactivate the field of urban politics against austerity and

Setting the context: Southern European cities as ‘crisis-scapes’

Since the 2008 financial crisis, the politics of austerity in Europe have engendered far
reaching socioeconomic transformations. Now almost a decade old, the crisis articulates
restructuring processes of global capital and governance, penetrating deeply into different
European countries’ heretofore established rights, labor and welfare regimes, deepening
socioeconomic inequalities and disarticulating institutional power and political representa-
tion. Such ‘crisis-generated restructuring’ (Soja 2000) has produced new social divisions,
exclusions and discriminations (IFRC 2013; Oxfam 2013; CoE 2013; OECD 2011 among
many others). At the same time, new forms of resistance, solidarities and political claims
have emerged (Giugni and Grasso 2015; Nolan and Featherstone 2015). As a number of

CONTACT  Alexandra Zavos

© 2017 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group
380   A. ZAVOS ET AL.

theorists have argued, the socioeconomic crisis is also an urban crisis (Harvey 2012; Peck
2012), since the city is, simultaneously, the field where new economic and social measures,
as well as forms of governance, are implemented, and the actual place where new claims
and struggles for rights, recognition and socio-spatial justice are mobilized.
As a crucial nexus of capital, institutions, policies, and practices, the urban therefore is
a privileged analytical perspective through which to investigate crisis-induced transforma-
tions and their challenges for urban citizenship (Blokland et al. 2015). The concept of urban
citizenship has been strongly influenced by debates and movements for the ‘right to the
city’ (Mitchell 2003; Purcell 2003; Marcuse 2009; Painter 2005; Smith and McQuarrie 2012;
Uitermark, Nicholls, and Loopmans 2012). As theorized by Lefebvre ([1968] 1977), the ‘right
to the city’ recognizes as rights-deserving subjects not only those legally entitled but all those
who actually inhabit the city (citadins, urban dwellers). Various urban initiatives and social
movements in cities around the world have claimed the ‘right to the city’ as a rallying point
(Mayer 2009). This approach has generated a large body of research and scholarship that
focuses on the transformative role of such initiatives for the urban itself (Brenner, Marcuse,
and Mayer 2012; Harvey 2012; Smith and McQuarrie 2012). Nonetheless, as Nicholls and
Vermeulen (2012) have pointed out, in many cases the city is a strategic site not only for
claiming the ‘right to the city’ but also for claiming broader rights through the city, such as
those related to lack of citizenship entitlements.
In this special issue, we take a closer look at how crisis and urban intersect and affect
citizenship rights and practices in Southern Europe, the epicenter of Europe’s multifaceted
socioeconomic crisis. Southern Europe is not analyzed here in terms of a common geneal-
ogy, but rather as a terrain of deep restructuring where, during the last years of the crisis,
fast changes are taking place (Hadjimichalis 2011). A field of experimentation and imple-
mentation of even harsher neoliberal austerity measures. The contributions examine how
changes are articulated at the levels of governance, institutions, policy and social practice
and highlight different forms and enactments of urban citizenship. In all four so-called
PIGS countries under consideration, austerity policies are enforced through ‘memoranda
of understanding’ formulated and monitored by new constellations of extra-statal govern-
ance apparatuses, such as those involving the EC-ECB-ESM-IMF. This regime generates
structural changes not only to the economy but also to the architecture and function of
national state institutions (e.g. public sector, labor and welfare, security, borders), attacking
a wide range of heretofore established citizenship rights (e.g. social security, wages and
pensions, housing). Lack of legitimation has precipitated a far-reaching and ongoing crisis
of the political system, penetrating deeply into the fibers of constitutional democracy and
traditional representation; it has also instantiated new claims and meanings of citizenship,
constellating around the notions of solidarity and social justice and performed by a multi-
plicity of different social actors in different locations.
The crisis impacts all aspects of everyday life and the urban as a whole, as it affects not
only individuals and families but also whole neighborhoods and the life of the city altogether
(Gialis and Leontidou 2016; Vaiou 2016; Knight and Stewart 2016). Access to housing is
jeopardized, rights to land and public assets are obliterated, public goods and services (e.g.
healthcare, education) are cut, labor rights are dismantled, leading to broad processes of
dispossession and the erosion of social rights and urban relations. As a result significant
sections of the urban population face poverty and social exclusion and large parts of the city
are devalued. At the same time, cities become arenas where urban citizenship is re-enacted

through a broad range of initiatives that address immediate needs as well as define new
political objectives and subjectivities. City inhabitants engage in struggles against precarity,
privatization, pauperization and loss of socioeconomic and cultural rights. Whether mass
or limited, local or city-wide, such movements challenge established politics and politicize
inhabitants in novel ways.
Situated in the context of the crisis in Southern European cities, urban citizenship, as
a meth-od of enquiry, expands the well-known debate on the ‘right to the city’ and the
boundaries of legal citizenship, and explores the multifaceted effects of the crisis on the
urban, its dwellers and the institution of citizenship itself.

Themes of enquiry
This special issue brings together contributions from established as well as younger schol-
ars, creating a forum where different theoretical insights, methodological approaches and
recent research are brought to bear on the subject of urban citizenship in ‘times of crisis’.
The articles comprising the special issue follow different, and open-ended, lines of inquiry,
attesting to the fact that urban citizenship is a contested concept, involving not only multiple
theorizations of both the urban and citizenship, but even placing both terms in question,
and reflecting the epistemic bewilderment that follows close upon the turbulence of the
actual socioeconomic and political crisis in the region. In this sense, the suspended state of
the current social and political situation, ravaged by coerced, intensive austerity measures
dis- and remembering the social fabric at various points and scales, and the ostensible
defeat of alternative political programs and antagonistic social movements, manifests not
only as a socioeconomic but also as an ideological and theoretical impasse. Τhe complexity,
contradictoriness and fragmentation of socioeconomic processes, as well as their irreducible
local specificity, means that the conditions for theorizing urban citizenship are, firstly, in
flux, and, secondly, an integral part of the theorizing itself.
Contributions are organized along three prevailing themes relating to the changing fea-
tures and challenges of urban social movements, urban governance and solidarity, and
migration and labor. All three themes entail different, often contrasting, views on structural
processes, practices and actors.

Urban social movements and the ‘right to the city’

Diverse forms of urban mobilizations have provided the grounds for the theorization of
urban citizenship as an alternative attribute of recognition, participation and belonging,
acquired through the multiple struggles of excluded, marginalized or disempowered urban
population. The conditions of crisis, and the crisis-induced legal apparatus that comes
along, have generated severe forms of deprivation and abandon, housing exclusion being
one of the most extreme such cases, involving more and more those previously ‘deserving’
legally entitled citizens together with already disregarded population. Following Lefebvre’s
conceptualization of the citadin, these urban dwellers are enfranchised through claims and
practices, exerting a right of re-appropriation and at the same time a transformative power
over the urban environment.
Grazioli sets of from the case of housing squats in Rome, a city with a long history of
urban and housing movements, in order to explore the new meanings of right to the city
382   A. ZAVOS ET AL.

and urban citizenship that are produced through common struggles and everyday expe-
riences of a diverse group of social actors engaged in the re-appropriation of their right to
housing. The fight for the use and production of urban space according to the needs of its
urban dwellers, grounding loyalties in material relations rather than in formal, nation-based
citizenship as Purcell (2003) points out, is a laborious and constant effort for survival/exist-
ence that requires common organization, experimentation and engagement towards (often
coincidental and transient) collective goals. A reading that tries to capture the dynamically
changing nature of the urban and the various forms that the efforts of its dwellers take, ‘a
tireless process based on reciprocity, negotiation and adjustment’, and the differentiated
meanings, interests and aims that compose its dynamics at each context.
Focusing on situations outside formal institutional arrangements Grazioli shows how
law can allow/enable such acts, by opening institutional paths for recognition of rights, or
impede/disempower by criminalizing practices of survival, setting people’s condition on a
verge of legality, or even withdrawing the right to access to basic vital goods such as water,
electricity etc. Acts of citizenship, transgress the boundaries set by the law to answer their
basic needs and create de facto attributions of legitimation. The different actors emerge as
the main component of this claim-act for the right to the city. The author gives us a clear,
qualitative, account of subjectivities comprising the, previously incoherent, group of squat-
ters: asylum seekers and refugees, migrants with family or community history in Italy, Roma
population, Italian victims of the crisis (esp. former middle class). Subjects and subjectivities
are multiple and fluid. The term of mobile commons is introduced to conceptualize their
common experiences as they reflect an on-going personal and collective struggle engaging
and converging (momentarily) towards common goals, without, nevertheless, necessarily
creating a clear alternative with transformative potential.
Based on the case of a gentrified low-income neighborhood of Lisbon, the paper of
Estevens and Carmo reflects upon citizenship acts that challenge and disturb the underlying
logic of neoliberal urban development, bringing to the fore the conflicts and antagonisms
between different actors. They seek to track down new meanings and understandings of
citizenship in urban space, very much needed in this period of crisis. The article provides
a dense account of the literature on urban citizenship, under three analytical axes: (urban)
spaces, (multiple) scales and (diversification) of political subjects. Urban citizenship, as
expressed in specific places, at various scales and through different actors/political subjects,
has a specific geographic and historic materiality. Focusing on cities and especially at the
neighborhood level, it is possible to grasp the changing character and conditions of being
and belonging (in a certain community/place) in relation to the broader (glocal) socioec-
onomic and political dynamics that shape it.
Novelty in this case is approached through the role of artists and creative people within
the given neighborhood, seeking to ‘strengthen relations, knowledge and critical thinking’ as
an act of resistance against the processes of privatization and control. The paper highlights
the important yet ambiguous role of art as a tool of (and form of) urban citizenship through
which we can consider a number of practices currently developed, that explicitly use the
city as a resource and space of political praxis. This is the case with various art events and
encounters where hybrid articulations of political subjectivities mobilize, including artists,
activists, local residents, migrants and refugees, in order to produce ephemeral yet critical
(and often powerful) interventions. The urban in this case, is both a canvas of creation, a
terrain of intervention, and a claim/goal in itself. Nevertheless, questions remain whether

such cases add to the discussion on ‘pioneer creative gentrifiers’ (i.e. Cameron and Coaffee
2005), or if they substantially achieve to renew urban citizenship and conscience in the

Urban governance and solidarity

Enacting urban citizenship often involves an interplay of different scales and institutional
arrangements; an interplay that might result in negotiations and new social and political
spaces as well as to contestations and conflicts over claims and their realization. To recall
Castoriades ([1975] 1987) institutions are shaped and transformed by social relations.
Through such processes, the enactment of collective urban citizenship claims entails a
redefinition of the institutional terrain as well as of lived social practices and relations
(García 2006). In this process the political ‘traditions’ of each place become important. Yet,
in this conjuncture of the recent crisis, the imposed austerity and its repercussions (on social
and political rights and on lives) become equally pivotal in triggering (and solidifying) the
expression of collective claims articulated within and around urban life.
Through research on solidarity initiatives that have emerged in Athens as a response
to austerity and its consequent minimization of social citizenship, Vaiou and Kalantides
discuss the reconfigurations of urban citizenship and spatial practices that transform public
spaces as well as everyday relations. To do so, they analytically interrogate the usefulness
of three widely used frameworks in urban studies: resilience, social innovation and urban
commons. Solidarity initiatives, with little precedence in Greece, are highly diverse both in
terms of scale and functions, as well as in terms of ideology and motives. While several of
them respond to the erosion of social rights and to needs, they might also support different
political practices based on participation and/or horizontality. As the authors observe, what
they have in common is that they are ‘voluntary and spontaneous associations of individuals’
and have a ‘weaker or stronger aversion’ towards the state. Thus, the authors consider that
none of the three above-mentioned frameworks can grasp the reconfigurations that such
solidarity initiatives provoke. Conversely, they argue that solidarity initiatives develop new
forms of attachment and relations among individuals. Practices of exchange and mutuality
strongly affect claims and practices of urban citizenship as well as of the political. Voiced
by groups and individuals, such claims are an attempt to take back ‘their place in the world’
that austerity was deprived them of.
In their article about citizenship practices and democratic governance, Pradel et al.
discuss the convergence of urban social movements (including PAH and Indignados) into
forming the political platform of Barcelona en Comu which won the 2015 municipal elec-
tions in Barcelona. Going beyond formal notions of citizenship, they argue that Barcelona
en Comu expresses the transformation of locally-based social movements into a governing
coalition. Nevertheless, this transformation is influenced both by the histories of bottom-up
participation of civil society groups in municipal governance in Spain (although weakened
in the past decade) and by the claims and practices articulated by the two main social move-
ments of the recent years. PAH (The Platform of Mortgage Victims) managed to reframe
housing from an individual to a collective issue and claim, as well as develop innovative
urban practices (local, national and international) for claiming urban rights. In addition,
Indignados voiced reactions against the austerity imposed welfare cuts and argued for social
rights and participatory forms of organizing and decision-making. By learning from these
384   A. ZAVOS ET AL.

movements, the authors argue that Barcelona en Comu expressed a particularly urban
citizenship agenda which emphasized social rights and protection of the more vulnerable
along with inclusive political participation scaled from the neighborhood to the municipal.
Garcia’s text on the other hand, provides us with an insider’s view of the emergence,
practices, contradictions and implications of the 15M movement (or Squares as it is more
commonly known) in Madrid. Initiated by an online collective asking for Real Democracy
Now, 15M movement developed its own practices, decision-making processes, as well as
its own form of internal organization of the self-generated Sol City. The 15M camp and
the subsequent movement has changed the relationship between participants, the rest of
the city and urban public spaces. Crucial for this has been its territorial rootedness in
neighborhood or district assemblies that were open for people to participate. Although it
emerged through claiming ‘Real Democracy Now’ it soon moved towards claims for social
rights and public services.
The 15M movement left a crucial legacy in the recent political history of Spanish cities
since it strongly affected other urban initiatives and political platforms that emerged after-
ward. Various such platforms, such as Ganemos Madrid, Ahora Madrid, form a part of the
broader ‘municipalist movement’ which has developed a clear social justice and participation
agenda. The lessons learned from the 15M movement and the relations that were established
strongly influenced Ahora Madrid’s political agenda which had participation as a main fea-
ture as well as efforts of promoting self-management of certain unused resources (somehow
echoing Lefebvre’s right to appropriation). Nevertheless, ‘they have not been able’ to make
some key policy changes or to counter austerity policies. Moreover, both participation and
localization raised concerns and highlighted potential problems such as the uneven influ-
ence and representativeness of those (individuals and groups) participating, the immediacy
of certain issues (and thus need for their prioritization) as well as the danger of creating new
borders and en-closures through the strong local rootedness if other links were not there.

Migration, mobility and labor

The last three articles address the subject of urban citizenship through the lens of migration,
mobility and labor from different vantage points; as an embodied experience, as a legal status
and as a political struggle. The first two, by Kandylis and Christopoulos respectively, dis-
cuss migrants’ political subjectification through different every-day acts of visibility and the
changing legal framework of citizenship in Greece, while the third, by Cuppini, considers the
challenges posed to the practice and notion of citizenship through migrants’ logistics strug-
gles in the Italian city-region of Bologna. Altogether, as numerous studies have shown (Nyers
and Rygiel 2012; Darling 2017), migration and mobility engender serious contestations of
citizenship, which, especially in the context of crisis, can manifest not only as demands for
the right to have rights, as in the case of illegalized migrants, but also as defensive/aggres-
sive redeployments of the boundaries of national belonging and identity, or even, as in the
case of indentured alien workers, by severing the connection between city and citizenship.
Kandylis looks at the socio-political dynamics of migrants’ presence in Athens through
the notion of the scene, derived from theorizations of act and power by Arendt and Isin.
Going deeply into the intimate everyday interactions and experiences of migrants as they
navigate and defend their life in Greece, Kandylis shows how the microphysics of power
is present in even the smallest of social spaces and encounters, rendering political the

performance of life itself. The city of Athens is the stage against, and within, which migrants
organize their daily life as, first and foremost, a struggle for visibility, be it in the neighbor-
hood, the local theater, or the confined space of the detention center. Using the figures of
parvenu and pariah, Kandylis looks for migrant subjectifications that either challenge and
confront, or reproduce, relations of domination.
Christopoulos’s article on recent legal reforms concerning the Greek Nationality Code/
Citizenship Act, and the heated juridico-political controversy that ensued before the reforms
could be finally adopted, provides the legal and political background to the scenes evoked
in the previous paper by Kandylis. Greek citizenship embroiled in the turbulent history of
modern Greece is but a reflection of the deep political fault lines that have divided Greek
society in the twentieth century. As such, then, citizenship, even from an institutional per-
spective, is more than a formal status, as the adventures of citizenship legislation reveal;
it is, rather, a cornerstone in the definition and defense of national identity, especially in
times of crisis.
What both articles together illustrate is that citizenship is a highly contested issue, in
which different social actors, not least of which the state and the judiciary, let alone migrants,
have high stakes. It is antagonistically claimed not only by those legally excluded and socially
marginalized, but also by those included, who feel the need to defend their sovereignty and
entitlement against perceived internal and external threats. Citizenship, then, functions
as a mechanism of social control, rather than a foundation of equality and participation,
allocating differential and tiered access to rights, as Cuppini also argues in the Italian case.
Cuppini uses the metaphor of logistics city to discuss on the one hand the changes effected
on the urban structure of Bologna through the logistics revolution, and the challenges to
citizenship instantiated by migrants logistics struggles that refuse altogether the status of
citizenship and inclusion in the nation-state. As laborers in the global supply chains, whose
(restriction of) rights is determined more by the governance of global economic flows, rather
than conditional settlement in a national territory, they exemplify the de-territorialization
of both labor and, consequently, citizenship. Stripped of its land-based referent, citizen-
ship, the author boldly argues, becomes an empty status that is abandoned; this needs to
be taken on board by conceptualizations of citizenship that still regard it as a fundamental
political right attached to territory and, even more importantly, the state. If the concept
and institution of citizenship itself is under attack, how are we to think and represent the
new forms of belonging and identity that emerge in the context of urban dismemberment?
If city and citizenship, territory and status are disjoined, what political institution, identity
and process can capture the emerging contestations?

Revisiting urban citizenship: emerging issues

As Holston and Appadurai (1996) point out, ‘although one of the essential projects of
nation-building has been to dismantle the historic primacy of urban citizenship and to
replace it with the national, cities remain the strategic arena for the development of citi-
zenship’. Actually, Holston (2007) observes that there is an increasing emergence of urban
citizenships around the world. Just as citizenship has been rescaled, re-territorialized and
reoriented (Purcell 2003), the urban too refers not only to a geographical entity, but ‘to a
specific socio-political and institutional setting, in which various scales – from the local to
the transnational – are layered, condensed and materialized’ (Blokland et al. 2015).
386   A. ZAVOS ET AL.

Urban citizenship has often been discussed in relation to two broad themes: rights of
excluded populations (mostly migrants) and the right to the city. The right to the city as
Lefebvre conceptualized it, entails the right to participation in urban processes and decisions
that affect ur-ban inhabitants and the right to appropriation, namely the right to use rather
than exchange urban space created by the everyday practices of its inhabitants (Lefebvre
[1968] 1977; Purcell 2002). With its emphasis on citadins (urban inhabitants) rather than
(national) citizens, the right to the city opened up spaces of hope and belonging to an urban
citizenry beyond the boundaries of formal citizenship. However, as it has been observed
in some cases (Harvey 2012; Mayer 2016; Blokland et al. 2015) their claims may also be
fragmented and fragmenting.
Urban citizenship embodies both contextual specificities and temporal transformations,
as in our case the conjuncture of the recent crisis. The crisis, as a destabilizing factor, contrib-
utes to a constant rescaling, expanding or condensing of the identity and social composition
of the urban, and it is therefore regarded as a catalyst for the potential transformations of
urban citizenship.
From the articles comprising the special issue we can depict the following four key
processes that manifest in the four countries under consideration and affect practices and
understandings of urban citizenship. Nevertheless, these processes are conditioned by the
specific histories and conditions of each country and city:
• the emergence/prevalence of needs-based claims and practices of survival
• solidarity as an integral part of citizenship in austerity ridden Southern European
• multidirectional processes of reconfiguration of institutions
• new alliances between differently entitled subjects.
In this last part, we will consider how these emerging processes relate to central topics
raised in the urban citizenship debate.

From the ‘right to the city’ to needs-based rights

Although the impact of the crisis has differentially affected the countries and cities of
South-ern Europe, the hegemony of the imposed austerity as a leading principle in reg-
ulating public spending has put traditional welfare mechanisms under attack, while the
recession it provoked deepened the economic hardships (Hadjimichalis 2011; Petmesidou
and Guillén 2014). We can therefore observe that claims and struggles have been refo-
cused towards the fulfillment of needs, in some cases even survival, and towards safe-
guarding what was lost in terms of social rights (such as welfare, health, education and
The intermingling of needs-based and rights-based claims is not new. However, the
examples discussed here seem to differ from other cases that give prevalence to rights-based
claims. For example, Holston’s influential work on Insurgent Citizenship (2007) pinpoints
the discursive turn from a needs-based perspective towards claims for citizens’ rights, in
movements related to poverty and exclusion. Many examples from South European cities
tend to follow the reversed path; prevalence is given to needs-based claims while rights-
based claims recede. Despite massive mobilizations demanding equality and democracy
and against the totalitarianization of neoliberalism, during the first years of the crisis (e.g.

Real-democracy Now, Square movements, Occupy), the subsequent deep political changes
did not bring about expected outcomes.

Older definitions of citizenship often refer to the solidarity and mutuality that shaped com-
munity membership. However, solidarity has remained largely absent from later discussions,
which were dominated by ‘national social-state politics’ (Balibar 2012), as well as neolib-
eral individualism. In the past few years, solidarity has regained visibility (Papataxiarchis
2016; Rakopoulos 2016; Spivak 2016; Theodossopoulos 2016). Solidarity initiatives, whether
identified as such or not, emerged as a distinctive feature in many crisis-ridden cities,
transcending organized collective action as well as (church based) charity, and concerning
urban inhabitants in/and temporary alliances (e.g. in Athens and Rome).
As an aspect of urban citizenship, solidarity based practices entail actual presence through
being together at the neighborhood (mostly) level, and brings together people from different
strands of life and politics. Solidarity initiatives politicize everyday life and social relations
through interaction and experience and motivate individuals to participate in collective
endeavors. They do not rely mainly on collectivizing claims; they also have a strong element
of affective politics (Berardi 2011), since they assist in sharing problems and escaping iso-
lation and self-incrimination about one’s deprivation. This last point has been particularly
pertinent in Southern Europe where the public in general has been blamed for the crisis.
As expected, solidarity initiatives might exist in different scales (from the very local to the
metropolitan) and provide different services, ranging from soup kitchens and barter bazaars
to health care. Their relationship towards the state, through formal or informal channels,
also varies reflecting different political trajectories and ideologies. Within the distortions
created by the dominant crisis-management discourses, blame is attributed to the state,
which is debilitated and devalued, while public-debt becomes the excuse and means to
suspend state sovereignty, thus rendering the state a discredited (fragile) opponent. Social
movements and political struggles find themselves in a strategy dilemma; on the one hand
defending rights and demanding the restitution of the welfare state (demanding the state
to resume its responsibilities) and at the same time developing actions in order to create
alternative structures to fill the gap left by the state.
Solidarity initiatives produce new social infrastructure and, sometimes, a welfare infra-
structure parallel or substituting the state. This has also been a point of tension. Such
initiatives have been criticized for focusing on the affective and immediate relief, thereby
depoliticizing issues and diverting social struggles from developing into counter-neoliberal
struggles. They are also criticized for absorbing the withdrawal and inaction of the state,
becoming forms of ‘self-management of poverty on small scale’ (Mayer 2016). Despite such
criticism, the emergence of solidarity initiatives challenges arguments that at times of crisis
fragmentation and intense competition prevail. Solidarity deepens urban citizenship by
developing and strengthening its deeper social side (Isin 2008).

Reconfiguration of institutions
More often than not, claims related to urban citizenship have an uneasy relationship with
established institutions. Considering that institutions are social relations, they are shaped
388   A. ZAVOS ET AL.

and transformed by social struggles and power relations. The core issue here is how claims
and demands for rights intersect with existing or new governance arrangements or legal
frameworks. Thus, overtly or more subtly, urban citizenship claims are involved in a multi-
directional reconfiguration of institutions both from above and from below. As the cases of
Barcelona and Madrid illustrate, learning from urban social movements in terms of organ-
ization, horizontality and participation can potentially result in the formation of political
alliances/platforms that run for political office.
Entanglements of and with power are rarely ‘easy’ and without tensions. The relation-
ship with formal authorities has provoked critiques concerning co-optation of struggles
into other agendas, of tokenistic participation and of losing the grassroots and/or radical
claims. This becomes particularly pertinent in the case of urban social movements gaining
office, when their autonomy and negotiations are framed within already established power
relations. On the other hand, parallel institutions also raise questions about their viability, or
potentially creating new ‘enclosures’ and becoming ‘militant particularisms’ that fragment
broader social claims (Harvey 1995).
The right to participation, as a structural element of the right to the city, has been a
common demand in regards to urban citizenship claims. This means not only struggling for
greater access to decision-making, as has often been the case in urban governance, but also
for expanding the field of access to include the excluded. Safeguarding and/or expanding
the terrain of formal rights has often been a key concern in struggles over urban citizenship
and a conflictual negotiation with established institutions. Urban citizenship has provided
a means for demanding recognition and access to rights for excluded subjects and topics,
such as migrants and other marginalized social groups, and issues that were not consid-
ered established right, such as housing or public goods. However, not all urban citizenship
claims desire or end up in direct communication with institutions. Depending on political
histories and context-specific factors, exit from the dialog with institutions might be the
only available, if not the desired, option.

Subjectivities and enactments within and beyond the urban

In the context of the crisis and austerity politics it is not only the ‘traditionally’ excluded,
but also the previously ‘deserving’, who are affected and suffer severe infringement of their
citizenship and human rights. One of the deep social effects of the prolonged period of
austerity and recession has been the abrupt transformation of social stratification. Social
polarization and inequality has been growing, especially through a process of suppression
of the middle classes towards the bottom (Whitehead-Vaughan 2015; ILO 2016). The reduc-
tion of state-guaranteed welfare and labor rights subjects natives to conditions of extreme
poverty and exploitation; and soaring unemployment and/or irregularized labor renders
migrants, whose residence permit depends on their labor contract, into illegalized aliens
under threat of deportation. Thus, in both cases, large parts of the urban population are
subjected to conditions of generalized precarity and uncertainty, under which survival and
social reproduction are endangered; they become vulnerable, fragile, expendable subjects,
through processes of violent expropriation (Sassen 2014).
Within this context novel transient (often compulsory) coalitions and alliances are gen-
erated, in which diverse actors enter from different positions, often motivated by different
interests and bearing different expectations, in order to cope with conditions of deprivation.

This condition, echoes previous discussions about the pluralization of citizenship (Purcell
2003, 575), reflecting the need to acknowledge ‘differentiated citizenship’ (Young 1999)
that does not suppress social differences into one uniform/universal citizenship model.
Nevertheless, in this dynamically changing situation such unstable formations cannot be
addressed as new forms of citizenship, neither do they consolidate into a political subject
that can potentially transform the city, as Lefebvre envisioned.
In terms of the on-going struggles for citizenship, natives and migrants both stake new
claims, be it in the form of needs-based claims for protection of diminishing social rights
previously guaranteed by the welfare-state, or in the form of human-rights claims for rec-
ognition and against state abuse. Novel engagements in common mobilizations against
precaritisation, as in the occupation movement in Rome, emerge, where new positions of
enunciation are enacted, based on some, however vague, notion of common fate or common
oppression. Something that was not possible before, under unionized labor mobilizations, or
within the migration and anti-racist movement. It would thus appear that it is life-precarity,
rather than, mainly, labor-exploitation, or illegality and lack of political rights that allows
different subjects who do not share the same entitlements or identity to come together.
The urban context is a fundamental stage and resource for these enactments, as well as a
condition where partiality and divisions can be, at least temporarily, transcended.
Two further processes that challenge the boundedness of institutional citizenship are
manifesting, even if only in nascent form. First, the re-invigoration of workers’ struggles
outside the unionized national-welfare framework that reflects the heterogeneity of global
capitalism (Mezzadra 2011). Second, the contestation of citizenship as a national institu-
tion; on the one hand, negatively, in its use as a bulwark in the defense of threatened and
depleted national identity, on the other hand, positively, in the service of social justice,
through the use of nation-state institutions, such as schools and hospitals, or even courts,
for the visibility and rights’ claims of non-national subjects.
Importantly, the issue of recognition is reiterated and complexified as it is linked to the
question of visibility. Two levels of recognition are represented in enactments of rights. On
the one hand, we have individual recognition and defense of the right to control one’s space,
and by extension also one’s life as it plays out in actual immediate circumstances. Here, to
become visible as a subject altogether is critical for any subsequent recognition of rights,
since lack of visibility is intimately linked to long histories of racialized exclusion (Lewis
2006). For example, landing a court appeal against their incrimination in detention camp
riots, migrants in Athens win a momentary, but concrete, legitimation and recognition of the
rightfulness of their struggle, which would not have been possible had the riots themselves
not brought them into public view. Thus, acts of visibility in the city are also acts of urban
citizenship. Particularly interesting in this regard is the re-negotiation of the public-private
divide, since overcoming the private-ness of a problem presented as an individual concern,
possibly collectivizes both the problem and its resolution.
On the other, we have collective mobilizations, sometimes leading to institutional rec-
ognition, or consolidation of rights, as well as participation in governance, or, else, to the
institution of new forms of the political. The ‘Barcelona en Comu’ victory in recent municipal
elections in Barcelona represents an experiment in instituting governance ‘from below’, and
as such, reflects how we understand, practice and establish political rights, and the right to
participation. Such examples of political acts and action at various sites and scales are also
forms, inklings, vectors of citizenship, incomplete and in the making; though sometimes
390   A. ZAVOS ET AL.

barely recognizable, they throw light onto the various levels at which the struggle for power,
to become visible, to belong and to form community is played out.

In closing, we note the permanence and normalization of the temporary crisis and its harsh
materiality, the uncertainty and instability at all levels and social relationships, yet we can-
not conclude on a Southern European modality. In each of the cities under consideration,
mobilizations, initiatives and practices of urban inhabitants have played an important role
in mobilizing devalued social capital and articulating demands. In most cases they have
produced both material and affective resources offering urban populations a means for
re-signifying and resisting locally the effects of the crisis. In some cases they have even
fed into collective political agendas and institutions of urban governance. Yet they are still
captive to the ebbs and flows of the crisis itself.
While new urban mobilizations, claims and practices are developing, it is still difficult to
conclude whether or not, and how, these will impact the institution of citizenship as such,
or for-mal governance and politics. Nonetheless, as far as urban citizenship is concerned,
it is clear that novel forms of engagement with the city, and among its different inhabit-
ants, have taken root and are becoming an important aspect of the responses to the crisis
at the urban level. Urban citizenship is context specific, as all articles in this special issue
highlight; yet such specificity is also conditioned by the crisis itself that certainly triggers
common tendencies.

Disclosure statement
No potential conflict of interest was reported by the authors.

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