The Foreigner? Saskia Sassen unravels what it now means to be ‘Other’

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Money to Africa

One of the things Arrival City – the book and the film project – set out to do is to step away from the think-tanks and statistics to tell the story of this last great surge to the city through personal stories and reportage. Doug Saunders used excellent research in his book, but balanced it with voices from the street – real people scraping by or teetering on the edge; real neighbourhoods where entrepreneurs abound but so do floods and garbage heaps. For the film, we believe showing that personal experience is critical, particularly to help viewers relate to new arrivals – from their own hinterlands or from across the seas.

Once in a while, though, it’s good to step back and take a wider view. One of the big questions about migration is the very definition of citizenship. Millions – billions if you include internal migrants – of people are working, moving around and building communities “without papers” and without guaranteed rights. At the other end of the spectrum, jet-setters and contractors operate freely around the globe no matter where their passports are issued. Is citizenship as meaningful as it used to be? If not, should we look to replace it with something more useful?

Renowned sociologist Saskia Sassen will be lecturing on the topic in late May, and you bet I’ll be there. I’d actually included a quote from Sassen’s intriguing write-up when I drafted this, but in re-reading it, I see that the three paragraphs are firmly copyrighted. Perhaps intellectual property is the new country…

The foreigner? Exiles & migrants is May 29th at the Tate Modern in London. You will need ID to collect your ticket…