Making Visible: the inhabitation of urban public space by irregular immigrants

Trikalinou, Lilika (Eleftheria). 2015. Making Visible: the inhabitation of urban public space by irregular immigrants. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

Focusing on irregular immigrants, people without any official status in their country of habitation, the research explores the relationship between urban public space and groups deemed to be marginal. Irregular immigrants’ experiences of ‘institutional invisibility’ are combined with their in-between socio-economic and political condition, reflecting, partly, immigration's transnational character. Therefore, irregular immigrants' social reproduction is dependent, partly, on informal, often illegal, means to sustain a living that are linked to their usage of urban public space. Their everyday experiences, and the ways they negotiate their institutional invisibility and irregularity, are investigated as a means to explore the appropriation of urban public space in relation to the conditions of their habitation, thus opening up issues relating to their right(s) and claims to space.
The research underpinning the thesis was conducted during 2011-2012 in Athens, Greece, with the empirical focus on Omonoia, a place of significant ‘settlement’ by irregular immigrants. Its core was in-depth interviews with eight irregular immigrants’ households, supplemented with a mapping exercise and participant observation. Additionally, the research documented institutional responses to, and influences on, the lives of irregular immigrants, through interviews with officials in key positions. The data show that urban public space is the primary means of survival and social reproduction for irregular immigrants, with it acting as both shelter and a place to network. The thesis highlights the use of invisibility and irregularity as a means to conceal immigrants’ marginal ways of securing basic needs away from the eyes of the State. However, their uses of public spaces are usually at odds with official, ‘legitimate’, governmental discourses about what public spaces are or ought to be. This opposition emphasizes the role of everyday activities in the production of space, but also the right to space - in the absence of other rights - by the plain instantiation of bodily existence of the institutionally invisible, irregular, immigrants in urban public space.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):


urban public space, irregular immigration, invisibility, Athens

Departments, Centres and Research Units:



31 May 2015

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Date Deposited:

03 Jun 2015 14:39

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 09:10


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