Sanctuary Says

Citation: Migration and Society: Advances in Research 4 (2021): 16-18 © The Authors

doi:10.3167/arms.2021.040103

Abstract: In 2018, the New School Working Group on Expanded Sanctuary collaboratively organized a series of workshops in New York to reflect on the question of sanctuary as a conceptual and practical starting point for cross-coalitional politics, including its tensions and risks. This short piece is an attempt to bring together the sentiments expressed in those workshops by activists, organizers, students and academics focusing on anti-racist, pro-migrant, and pro-Indigenous struggles, in a form that engages sanctuary as an ongoing question.

What is Sanctuary?

In 2018, the New School Working Group on Expanded Sanctuary collaboratively organized a series of workshops in New York to reflect on this question. The workshops brought together activists, organizers, students and academics whose work spans anti-racist, pro-migrant, and pro-Indigenous struggles. Together, we reflected on sanctuary as a conceptual and practical starting point for cross-coalitional politics, including the tensions and risks of such a project.

This short piece is an attempt to assemble the sentiments expressed in those workshops in a form that engages sanctuary as an ongoing question. Our conception of sanctuary is not a consensus vision. It reflects the productive tension between the worlds we inhabit, the visions of justice we hold, and the solidarities we share. For example, the term “community defense” registered very differently for participants in different contexts. While some understood themselves to be working for progressive notions of community defense, others wanted to distance themselves from the term’s deployment as part of right-wing and exclusionary practices. An expansive conception of sanctuary is not limited to conventional associations or historical meanings. Sanctuary entails a way of being as well as sets of principles, practices, affects, and risks. It is at once a political horizon, an already existing reality, and site of contention and risk. For many at the workshops, it was a term that simultaneously evoked promise, disappointment and betrayal, insofar as people felt it had been hijacked by city and state governments who have not honored its more radical commitments. We hope this reflective text will be read as a contingent collaboration—a provocation to open conversations, actions, and connections across communities, struggles, and continents.

The text was compiled by The New School Working Group on Expanded Sanctuary, drawing on the discussions, notes, and sketches from the long table workshops: Individuals from the following organizations participated in the workshops.

  • New Sanctuary Coalition of New York
  • Otros Dreams en Acción (ODA)
  • Watch the Med Alarm Phone
  • Asamblea Popular de Familias Migrantes (APOFAM)
  • Red de Pueblos Transnacionales
  • New Sanctuary Movement of Philadelphia
  • Radio Progreso y Equipo de Reflexión, Investigación y Comunicación (ERIC), Honduras
  • Sanctuary Health, Vancouver
  • Yo Sí Sanidad Universal, Madrid
  • Mijente
  • Audre Lorde Project
  • Black Youth Project 100
  • NYU Dream
  • Make the Road New York
  • The New School Sanctuary Working Group
  • Hemispheric Institute, NYU
  • Undocublack Network
  • African Communities Together
  • Enlace
  • New York State Youth Leadership Council
  • National Immigration Law Center
  • Social Justice Institute of the Barnard Center for Research on Women
  • North Star Fund

Sanctuary Strives For...

  • Radical hospitality
  • Community defense
  • Civil disobedience
  • Civil initiative
  • Restorative justice
  • Web of resistance
  • Open borders
  • The commons
  • Revolutionary commitment
  • Uniting struggles
  • Radical education
  • Abolition as praxis
  • Holding difference
  • Defying norms
  • Working outside the state
  • The practice of community
  • Liberation
  • Freedom of Movement

Sanctuary Is...

  • An experiment
  • Training for the not-yet
  • Taken, not given
  • A threshold
  • An interruption
  • A corridor
  • Imagination
  • Healing
  • Autonomy
  • Refuge
  • Presence
  • Solidarity
  • Courage
  • Dignity
  • Non-innocent
  • Shared fate
  • A call for equality
  • Care
  • Love
  • Always incomplete

Sanctuary Risks Becoming...

  • Humanitarianism
  • Charity
  • Paternalism
  • Defensiveness
  • Containment
  • Confi nement
  • Limiting
  • A Fortress
  • A Prison

Compiled by Alexandra Délano Alonso, Abou Farman, Anne McNevin, Miriam Ticktin

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