Projects ELP

Toward a Parliament of Migrants: Representation and Participation Beyond Membership

Book project 2018-2020

Benjamin Boudou


This project aims at bringing together theoretical and empirical works on the participation and representation of migrants in democracy. Rejecting both the utopian proposal of a global demos while questioning the legitimacy of various forms of exclusive citizenship, I argue that actors, processes and institutions guaranteeing the participation of migrants and the representation of their interests are the best proxies for the legitimation and democratization of borders. 

Recent debates on migration shed a light on a wide range of new actors (both individual and institutional) contesting mainstream policies of border closing. There are many initiatives, associations, NGOs, forums, churches, and cities, which act daily to help and empower migrant voices. These transnational activists express and publicize claims of foreigners, and aim to mobilize public opinions around police and administrative practices at the borders.

The political theory literature is developing justifications for a better and wider democratic inclusion of foreigners (be they resident or not). The practical outputs of this inclusion remain however vague (local or national franchise, access to citizenship, transnational forums, etc.), because their legitimizing principles remain normatively controversial (all affected interests principle, all subjected principle, stakeholder principle, etc.), and too little attention is given to representation. 

Representation and participation are the two faces of democratic voice that citizens can enjoy. Interests are both shaped and expressed by representatives, and participation through formal and informal political mobilizations gives citizens the occasion to express more directly their concerns. How this basic organization of democratic empowerment and accountability could work for foreigners? What can we learn from transnational migrant activism or migrants parties? Which norms, concepts, and institutional innovations can help us making inclusive representation thinkable? What should be the role of cities and local government in the vindication of affected interests? How do imaginary and symbolic institutions (like the “Universal Embassy” or the “Permanent’s People Tribunal”) can improve our political consideration of denizens?

Through these different questions, I hope first to contribute to the ongoing debate in political theory regarding the best normative principles guiding democratic inclusion and exclusion, focusing on the issues of participation and representation. Second, I wish to enrich these normative discussions with empirical works on local assemblies and political mobilizations of and for migrants.