Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2803

Article | Open Access

Solidarity Cities and Cosmopolitanism from Below: Barcelona as a Refugee City

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Abstract:  The so-called ‘refugee crisis’ provoked a wave of solidarity movements across Europe. These movements contrasted with attitudes of rejection against refugees from almost all EU member states and a lack of coordinated and satisfactory response from the EU as an institution. The growth of the solidarity movement entails backlash of nationalized identities, while the resistance of the member states to accept refugees represents the failure of the cosmopolitan view attached to the EU. In the article, we argue that the European solidarity movement shapes a new kind of cosmopolitanism: cosmopolitanism from below, which fosters an inclusionary universalism, which is both critical and conflictual. The urban scale thus becomes the place to locally articulate inclusive communities where solidarity bonds and coexistence prevail before national borders and cosmopolitan imaginaries about welcoming, human rights, and the universal political community are enhanced. We use the case of Barcelona to provide a concrete example of intersections between civil society and a municipal government. We relate this discussion to ongoing debates about ‘sanctuary cities’ and solidarity cities and discuss how urban solidarities can have a transformative role at the city level. Furthermore, we discuss how practices on the scale of the city are up-scaled and used to forge trans-local solidarities and city networks.

Keywords:  Barcelona; cosmopolitanism; municipalism; refugee crisis; solidarity



© Óscar García Agustín, Martin Bak Jørgensen. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.