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Global migration has reached historic levels affecting every single country in the world. One of the most significant effects of this heightened mobility has been that a growing proportion of the residents of migrant receiving places lack national citizenship and are thus deprived of effective sociopolitical inclusion, representation, and participation in the localities where they have moved to for work, refuge or retirement. This disjuncture between the spaces of citizenship and daily life, in turn, has led to a devolution of citizenship claims-making from national to urban space. This paper begins by identifying four key political economic developments operating at the global scale that have unsettled the established view of the close correspondence between nationhood and citizenship. It then focuses on the uses and limits of the increasingly voluble discourse on ‘the right to the city’ as a way to create alternative political spaces in which variously excluded groups of urban inhabitants might empower themselves. Three strikingly different examples of widely diverse group actions and state responses to illustrate the practical strengths and limits of ‘the right to the city’ discourse are narrated. We end by offering what we believe to be a more useful way to envisage and analyse the interplay between global mobility and urban citizenship.
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Keywords: Global mobility; nationhood; retirement migration; transnational practices; urban citizenship; ‘right to the city’

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Community Studies and Development, University of California, Davis, One Shields Avenue Davis, CA 95616 USA. s: ;, Email:

Publication date: 2009-12-01

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