The emergence of melancholic citizenship at the urban periphery: The case of south Tel Aviv protest against global migration

While the concept of citizenship is often related to legal status within the nation state, the actual expression of the concept is defined by one’s standing within the political community and develops questions of inclusion and belonging where spaces of citizenship extend to the city level. According to this perspective, although people may be included in the collective by law of the nation state, they may also be, in actual fact, excluded by the unwritten spatial law. This law dictates the life conditions of minorities and creates symbolic and physical boundaries that pushes “others” to the city margins where marginalized citizens and noncitizens contest their exclusions. Whereas public demonstration of discriminated citizens emerging at the urban periphery might be seen as reactionary and as a raging outbursts, closer examination reveals they are also a site of sadness and melancholy. following this line of thought, Tal Shamur will suggest the concept of “melancholic citizenship” to describe the emotion of sadness aroused among a discriminated group of citizens in light of a process that highlights their social and urban marginality. The case study explored is the struggle of old-time Mizrahi (Jews who immigrated to Israel from Arab countries) residents of the HaTikva neighborhood – a lower income neighborhood of south Tel Aviv – against the inflow of African migration to the area. Based on anthropological field work he conducted in the neighborhood he argues that the struggle of the long-standing residents aroused melancholic feelings among them when they realized that the global migration is a current indication of their discrimination as lower-income Mizrahim who inhabit the city periphery and are located at the margins of Israeli society.

Tal Shamur is ISEF Foundation International Fellow in the Department of Social Anthropology, at the University of Cambridge. He holds a BA degree (magna cum laude) in sociology and anthropology and human services and a PhD in Cultural Anthropology from Haifa University. He also holds an MA degree in labor studies from Tel Aviv University. His work focuses on questions of belonging and identification within the urban sphere. His Book titled: Hope and Melancholy on an Urban Frontier: Ethnicity, Space and Gender in the Hatikva Neighborhood, Tel-Aviv was recently published in the University of Haifa press (2020, in Hebrew). His articles were published in the journals Emotion Space and Society (2019) and Citizenship Studies (2018).