News & events


Voluntary Illegality? European youth activism and political lawbreaking in “the migrant crisis”

27 February 2018
12:30 - 14:00

Date: 27 February 2018      
Time:  12h30 – 14h00 
Venues: Pretoria, Durban, Cape Town, PE and Sweetwaters

Presenter: Dr Ilaria Pitti University of Bologna, Italy and Örebro University, Sweden

Chair: Prof Sharlene Swartz Deputy Executive Research Director, Human and Social Development research programme of the HSRC
Discussants: Ragi Bashonga, Anye Nyamnjoh and Kombi Sausi, all researchers at the HSRC

In the midst of the so-called European migrant crisis, a series of critiques addressing the inadequacy of the EU’s management of the phenomenon of migration have emerged both at the institutional level and in civil society. The outdatedness of the model of citizenship conveyed by the current European laws on migration has been denounced by several grassroots social movements that, especially at local level, have proposed alternative solutions to address the issues of migrants’ welcoming and integration. |

In many cases, young people have been at the forefront of this struggle for a more inclusive Europe and, refusing the distinction between ‘legal’ and ‘illegal’ people, have engaged in different experiences of solidarity aimed at helping all incoming migrants. This seminar offers insight into how two radical left youth social movements in Italy and Sweden offer solidarity towards migrants and asylum seekers. Subjected to harsh repression, these activists adopt a series of ‘illegal’ practices of participation, such as occupying abandoned spaces for the creation of shelters. The biographical and ethnographic data presented formed part of the Horizon 2020 Youthblocs study conducted between 2015 and 2017. Discussants will address learnings for various African contexts.

Ilaria Pitti is Marie SkÅ‚odowska-Curie Fellow at the Centre for Studies on Civic Engagement, Örebro University, Sweden and holds a visiting position at the Department of Sociology of the University of Bologna, Italy. She is a youth sociologist with her current work focussed on transitions to adulthood and unconventional forms of youth political participation.

Pretoria: HSRC Video Conference, 1st floor HSRC Library Human Sciences Research Council, 134 Pretorius Street, Pretoria. Contact : Arlene Grossberg, Tel: (012) 302 2811, e-mail:
Cape Town: HSRC, Merchant House 116-118 Buitengracht Street, Cape Town. Contact : Carmen Erasmus, Tel: (021) 466 7827, e-mail:
Durban:  The Atrium, 5th Floor, 430 Peter Mokaba Ridge, Berea, 4001. Contact Ridhwaan Khan, Tel: (031) 242 5400, cell: 083 788 2786, e-mail:, or Hlengiwe Zulu at e-mail
Sweetwaters : Old Bus Depot, Mbubu Road, Sweetwaters. Tel: (033) 324 5000

The HSRC seminar series is funded by the Department of Science and Technology (DST). The views and opinions expressed therein as well as findings and statements of the seminar series do not necessarily represent the views of the DST

Kindly note that seminars can now be accessed via the Vidyo link:

Social science that makes a difference