The challenge of low visibility: immigrant activism toward enfranchisement


Low visibility activism poses a challenge for scholars wishing to understand the involvement and impact of immigrant activists in political processes. While the migrant enfranchisement literature frequently credits emigrants for their active role in efforts toward the right to vote, it often ignores or dismisses the parallel role of immigrants. I revisit Switzerland as one of the most widely studied cases of immigrant enfranchisement to analyse the cantonal case studies of Geneva and Zurich. The results show that immigrants were actively involved in various ways, and at points, their activism proved to be essential. However, their contributions were often not publicly visible due to strategic choices made by immigrant activists and institutional barriers that limited their participation. This low visibility presents a challenge for scholars studying enfranchisement processes because the official paper trail may fail to reflect immigrant activism. By comparing parliamentary debates with interview as well as archival evidence, I demonstrate that only the latter two provide glimpses into immigrant contributions to their own enfranchisement. I conclude with a call to engage deeply with sources beyond the official paper trail when reaching conclusions about the extent and impact of immigrant involvement in political processes.

Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies
Klaudia Wegschaider
Klaudia Wegschaider
Postdoctoral Researcher

Democracy | Electoral Rights | Voting | Migration