Urban citizenship in the ethnified city: politics of inhabitance in immigrant squatter settlements in Greater Santiago

Urban citizenship in the ethnified city: politics of inhabitance in immigrant squatter settlements in Greater Santiago

Año de inicio: 2017
In Process
This project seeks to analyse how immigrants that reside in a squatter settlement in Greater Santiago reconceptualise the notion of citizenship in a context where, in addition to residing “informally”, the political community does not recognise them as members with full rights.


During the last decade, the considerable increase of immigrants in Chile has modified significantly the urban landscape of our cities. According to CASEN 2015, currently 2.7% of those who live in Chile are foreigners—a figure far greater than the 1% that resided in 2006—making the Metropolitan Region of Santiago the area where the greater percentage of them (69.1%) have congregated. The migratory processes bring with them a series of problems associated with the difficulty of granting citizenship rights to immigrants as a mechanism of integration to the recipient society (Bloemraad 2006). A new phenomenon, nonetheless, has complicated the already difficult incorporation of the migrant population into the Chilean society: the emergence of illegal occupations of urban land by immigrant families, all of this in a context in which the number of families living in campamentos (squatter settlements) increased from 27,378 in 2011 to 38,770 in 2016 (TECHO-Chile 2016). This project ethnographically analyses the ways in which the residents of these “ethnified” settlements conceive of citizenship and belonging to a nation-state.


This project examines the construction of a political imagination through which the residents of one of these settlements located in Greater Santiago think of themselves as subjects of rights in a nation-state to which, formally, they do not belong. This study utilises the relational ethnography of Matthew Desmond (2014) as a method of analysis. Unlike the ethnographic approximations limited to the observation whether in social groups or places, the relational ethnography focuses on examining the “processes involving configurations of relations among different actors or institutions” (Desmond 2014, 547). Thus, in this case, my focus is not on the study of migrants themselves, nor the squatter settlement as a specific territorial unit, but rather on how the experience of foreigners whose daily lives are conditioned by precariousness and residential informality, enable the emergence of new political imaginaries. In other words, my analysis examines the relationship between the practices of inhabitance, the residential space and citizenship.

(1) Cristóbal Palma (social anthropologist)

(2) Antonio Insunza (B.A. student)

Start date: first semester of 2017