Accepted paper:

Maps of anxiety or empowerment: undocumented migrant' leisurely use of public spaces


Anna Horolets (University of Warsaw)
Monika Stodolska (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)
Sebastian Burset (St. Olaf College)

Paper short abstract:

The paper focuses on how the status of Polish and Latino undocumented migrants in Midwestern US is interrelated with the way they use urban public space for leisure as well as how urban space is imagined by migrants and how race, gender and socio-economic status differentiates these images.

Paper long abstract:

In the proposed paper we would like to pose a question of how undocumented migrant status is interrelated with the way migrants use and appreciate public spaces in cities in their free time. The paper is based on the comparison between Latino and Polish undocumented migrants who use urban public spaces in Midwestern US for their leisure. The material was collected through observation and interviews conducted in 2010-2011 and in 2014, respectively. Specific character of the US migration regime as well as the differences in policies towards undocumented migrants between Chicago and Urbana-Champaign, the two research sites, form the background for our analysis. We will focus on the marginalizing and empowering qualities of public space use by the undocumented migrants. We aim to tackle the following questions: Which public spaces are considered by the undocumented migrants as dangerous or non-inviting and why? Which are considered attractive? What roles do race, gender and socio-economic status play in these perceptions? How city space is imagined by the migrants? Are there utopian or dystopian visions of city space specific for undocumented migrants? Despite commonsensical perception of leisure as a domain of free will, it is much structured by legal, economic, social and cultural factors. The deprivation of leisure and dissatisfaction with one's leisure can be an impediment to migrants' well-being and affect their identity. We therefore aim to bring more attention to the importance of leisure in people's migration experience.

panel Urba003
Ethnographies of urban public spaces