Working Paper 2019-01

February 8, 2019 by Sherri Klassen

Assembling the Politics of Noncitizenship: Local struggles to enforce and extend access to health care

Patricia Landolt, University of Toronto

UT Sociology Working Paper No. 2019-01

January 2019

Keywords: assemblages, boundary work, health care, noncitizenship, political contestation, politics of noncitizenship



Shifts in global migration are sparking powerful political clashes over the terms of membership for noncitizens that are characterized by complexity, diversity and multivalence. Local struggles over the rights and entitlements of migrants contribute political, procedural and cultural content to a broader reconceptualization of the boundaries between and content of citizenship and noncitizenship. In this article I draw on documentary evidence, fieldnotes and interviews to examine how a network of individual and collective actors – centred around healthcare professionals, community social service agencies and migrant-rights activists – rewrites the social and symbolic boundaries of noncitizenship as they enforce and extend access to health care for precarious noncitizens in Toronto, Ontario. I propose the concept of noncitizenship assemblages as a framework for understanding the contemporary politics of noncitizenship as multi-actor, multi-scalar contestations that may challenge or subvert the distinctions between citizens and noncitizens. Tracing the components through which health care for precarious noncitizens is assembled in a liberal welfare state expands the empirical base of knowledge on the politics of noncitizenship. The noncitizenship assemblages framework captures the heterogeneous and often incommensurable components of political contestation the produce membership. It motivates consideration of contingency, impermanence and conditionality in the production of the boundaries of noncitizenship.