Fachbereich Geschichtswissenschaft

Pathways of Incorporation of EU Migrants in Germany

The main objective of my fellowship at the Research Group ‘Migration and Mobility in Late Antiquity and Early Middle Ages’ will be the preparation of a dossier outlining pivotal contributions in contemporary theoretical and methodological debates in migration sociology and the wider interdisciplinary field of migration studies. The dossier will focus on the themes that are of particular interest to the work of the Research Group, namely the governance of migration and migration and border regimes in specific and local practices of participation, incorporation and network formation. The dossier will contextualise these within scholarly traditions and debates in a way that reflects on their differing epistemological underpinnings, empirical applications and contributions to the overall development of critical and engaged theory. This will help advance some of the key aims of the research group, such as the exploration of the analytical values of contemporary approaches to migration to pre-modern mobilities. Conversely, it will help to articulate the value of historical findings for furthering the scope and agenda of today’s approaches on a topic that remains highly contested in political and public debates.

Secondly, my position as a Research Fellow will allow me to complete my current research project application, provisionally titled: ‘Legitimate yet unwanted? Exploring the localized pathways of incorporation of recent EU migrants in two German cities’, which I plan to submit to the DFG ‘Eigene Stelle’ programme. The overall aim of the project is to inquire the regulation of migrant incorporation and its practical enactment in three interrelated domains: employment, social welfare, and residential administration – which are all central to migrants’ inclusion in destination societies. Research on intra-EU migration has identified the emergence of a new migratory system, in which transient and fluid mobilities take precedence over patterns of integration and long-term settlement. Public debates framed the arrival of East Europeans in Western Europe particularly in Germany, within categories of ‘benefit tourism’ and ‘poverty migration’ to emphasise the pressures that migrants’ claims to socio-economic insertion can exert on national social protection systems and local administrations. This discursive backlash against freedom of movement has materliased into various legal mechanisms for limiting welfare and residence rights, which have rendered a significant number of EU citizens as ‘underserving’ not only of their mobility but also their rights to settle. Even though accounts of EU migrants’ socio-economic precarity within Western states proliferate, there has been relatively little scholarly attention to the contextual factors structuring their settlement in localities of destination and to migrants’ attempts to navigate these. To fill this gap the project builds on findings from ‘classical’ studies on migrants’ structural incorporation in European contexts and expands these further by, on the one hand, putting them into dialogue with transnationalism scholarship that sees incorporation as a dynamic and spatially differentiated process, and on the other, by drawing on the advancements of critical border, migration and citizenship studies in identifying important aspects related to the reconfiguration of migration governance on both the national and local level. More specifically, the project maps out the governmental regulation of local reception processes and examines how migrants ‘embed’ themselves in local settings through transnational practices of participation and belonging which have ambiguous implications for exclusion and dislocated entanglements. Methodologically, the project employs ethnographic research, problem-oriented interviews and online content analysis to unpack migrants’ incorporation experiences and their embeddedness in local and transnational resource and institutional environments.

As a third, and interrelated objective, this Fellowship will provide me with the opportunity to articulate further the theoretical positioning and contributions of my wider research on migrant subjectivities and emic aspirations, unequal intra-EU regimes of mobility and cultural value chains of connectedness. I am particularly interested in exploring the ways in which recent contributions to scholarship on migration governance, such as concepts of ‘internalisation’ of borders and ‘everyday bordering’, can enrich well-established paradigms in the literature on migrant incorporation. Such conversations pertain to the increasing importance attributed to the role of locality for understanding the regulatory contexts against which settlement takes place, but have also addressed aspects like the resource environments within which migrants establish social fields of everyday proximity. The second part of this analysis will develop an analytical framework for understanding the subjective factors behind migration that bring together the concepts of imaginaries, aspirations and hope, particularly in a context characterized by political and cultural dynamics of centre-periphery relationship. This exploration will serve as a basis for a theoretical chapter of my forthcoming monograph dedicated to the role of subjective motivations and expectations in contemporary intra-EU migration.


For more information about Polina Manolova, please click here.