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The gendering of political and civic participation among Colombian migrants in London

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Cathy McIlwaine, Anastasia Bermúdez

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1499-1513
Number of pages15
JournalEnvironment and Planning A
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2011

King's Authors


In this paper we examine how Colombian migrants participate in formal and informal political and civic activities in London. Drawing on qualitative and quantitative research conducted between 2005 and 2009, we explore how gender regimes change as people move across borders and how this affects political and civic participation. Although the gendered patterns of participation partly reflect research elsewhere, in terms of men's stronger involvement in formal and transnational activities and women's greater participation in informal politics and immigrant politics, some impor- tant differences emerged. Not only do formal and informal activities overlap, but class position and life-course stage as well as immigration status affect these processes. Although middle-class women were able to take advantage of opportunities for formal political participation in London and transna- tionally, working-class women gained the most from changing gender regimes, exercising increased control over their lives through their disproportionate participation with migrant-community organisa- tions. In both cases, however, women's political engagement was easier when demands on their traditional roles, as mothers in particular, were lessened later in the life course. Working-class men emerged as the least active politically and civically, and this was related to working patterns, feelings of disempowerment and a desire to return home. Conceptually, we further challenge an unrecon- structed political opportunities structure perspective for explaining migrants' political mobilisation by arguing for the need to include not only a gendered approach but also one that explicitly integrates intersectionality into any analysis. For Colombian migrants in London, although political and civic participation is far from uniform, there is evidence that engagement in such activities is important in the lives of many migrants, and especially for working-class women who appear to have been the most active in challenging hegemonic gender regimes.

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