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Publisher Description

In recent times, international migrants living without legal status in Canada, the United States, and European countries have resorted to various institutional manifestations of "sanctuary" to resist deportation. Beginning in the early 1980s, the ancient tradition of church sanctuary underwent a revival, with Christian churches providing sanctuary to migrants facing imminent arrest and deportation. These sanctuary practices arose amidst a dramatic increase in the number of asylum seekers arriving in the West and a simultaneous escalation in national and international efforts to discourage and control their arrival through myriad means, including deportation. Since reappearing in the 1980s, sanctuary has shown signs of mutating and moving beyond Christian churches to other faith-based communities and to secular institutions such as universities and cities. Until recently sanctuary scholarship has focused primarily on sanctuary activity in the US where it emerged as a faith-based social movement in the 1980s. This complex movement spawned a considerable multidisciplinary body of scholarship. Such scholarship ranged from major ethnographic inquiries invoking social movement theory, to thoughtful theological reflections, to sociological questions about deviant behaviour, to careful consideration of legal questions surrounding constitutional freedom-of- religion claims in the wake of US state authorities charging and convicting providers for their sanctuary activities. By the early 1990s sanctuary as a social movement had all but expired in the US context but through their efforts, scholars had effectively exposed sanctuary not only as a substantive realm of interest in its own right but also as a set of practices in which to ground and pursue long-standing questions stemming from diverse disciplines and theories. Yet, despite this rich body of published work, broader inquiries into sanctuary that reach across and beyond US borders are warranted given that sanctuary has occurred outside the US, persisted after the early 1990s, and taken new institutional forms. Situating sanctuary in this broader context provides further opportunity to explore vital questions in social, legal, and political theory pertaining to migration and citizenship processes, civil disobedience, and church-state relations. Opportunities abound to explore these questions both from relatively traditional disciplines and through more contemporary research on social movements, governmental rationality, and identity influenced by the "linguistic turn" in social theory. While studies representing this broader perspective on sanctuary have been undertaken independently, until now a forum in which they can be considered and debated collectively has been lacking.

March 22
Centre for Refugee Studies

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