Professor Patricia Landolt reflects on Precarious Noncitizenship and Canadian Sociology

Patricia LandoltProfessor Patricia Landolt recently provided an article for the International Sociological Association’s newsletter, Global Dialogue. In it, she shows how a sociological lens can change the way we think of new trends in migration in Canada and elsewhere. The entire article is available on the Global Dialogue site; we have pasted an excerpt below.


Sociology remains a crucial voice in public debate because it challenges common-sense understanding of pressing social issues. Consider, for example, migration and immigration. In Canada, and other settler countries, immigration is commonly understood as a permanent move, with the goal of increasing the country’s national population. The sociology of migration shows, however, that temporary migration is increasing, and policies that promote migration are leading to precarious noncitizenship. A sociological lens offers counter-hegemonic interpretations of the current immigration system and its impact on social inequality.

Globally, legal status and citizenship are critical determinants of well-being and mobility. But they also create inequality. In recent years states have responded to increased global migration by creating new legal categories for non-citizens, institutionalizing authorized trajectories of non-citizenship, leading migrants to spend years in an uncertain legal status, and often pushing migrants towards illegalization.

Pathways and access to citizenship are increasingly restricted, while extralegal systems for detaining and deporting migrants have proliferated. This global shift differs from country to country, but in Canada, the changing relationship between temporary and permanent immigration has led to the rise of precarious noncitizenship, expressed in immigration, labor markets and the experience of work.

Precarious noncitizenship refers to temporary or limited legal status and the associated experiences of differential inclusion. Precarious legal status means that a person has only a temporary legal right to be present in a country, with limited or no access to state entitlements. Most importantly, precarious noncitizens are deportable; the state can forcibly detain and remove precarious noncitizens from the national territory.

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