Bedrohte Grenzen – Reflexionen zur Neuordnung des Migrationsdiskurses in Deutschland und Europa“.

Der SFB 923 hat die gegenwärtigen politischen Debatten um Fragen von Flucht und Migration in Deutschland und Europa zum Anlass genommen, den politischen Soziologen Bastian Vollmer als Gastwissenschaftler in den SFB einzuladen.

Mit seinem Forschungsthema am SFB „Bedrohte Grenzen – Reflektionen zur Neuordnung des Migrationsdiskurses in Deutschland und Europa“ wird er einen Beitrag zum Projektbereich E („Diagnose – Bewältigungspraxis“) leisten. Im Zentrum seiner theoretischen Reflektion steht dabei eine Bestandsaufnahme der aktuellen „Migrationskrise“. Insbesondere die Bedrohungsdiagnose auf diskursiver Ebene ist für dieses Vorhaben relevant. Leitende Fragen beziehen sich dabei sowohl auf die Darstellung der „Migrationskrise“ als auch deren Folgen, das heißt wie eine vermeintliche „Bedrohung“ verschiedener Ordnungssysteme in der Öffentlichkeit diskutiert wurde; ob wir eine Renaissance der territorialen, aber auch metaphysischer Grenzen erleben und somit von einem neuen sozio-psychologischen Paradigma die Rede sein kann.

Bastian A. Vollmer ist Research Affiliate der Universität Oxford (Centre on Migration, Policy and Society). Seine Forschungsinteressen bestehen aus einer Schnittmenge von Migrations-, Diskurs- und Grenzforschung aus soziologischer und politikwissenschaftlicher Sicht. Sein kürzlich erschienenes Buch Ukrainian Migration and the European Union – Dynamics, Subjectivity, and Politics (Palgrave Macmillan), beschäftigt sich mit politischen, sozioökonomischen und sozialstrukturellen Bedingungen von Ukrainern_innen und untersucht, wie diese Bedingungen sich auf Entscheidungsprozesse der Migration auswirken. Subjektivität im Zusammenhang mit Migration oder ‚movement’ steht im Zentrum dieses Buches. Er veröffentlicht regelmäßig in Zeitschriften wie Geopolitics, Critical Social Policy, Zeitschrift für Politikwissenschaft, Journal of Contemporary European Studies, European Journal of Migration and Law oder Population, Space and Place.

Am SFB ‚Bedrohte Ordnungen’ verfolgt er sein Vorhaben:

Threatened borders – Reflecting on the EU ‘migration crisis’ in a global context

A paradox seems to exist at philosophical and practical levels. Humanity and empathy is on the rise across the globe while borders rise at the same pace.

The mandate and operational field of borders have been extending outside and inside of borders. While many state borders seem to disappear, many other less visible state borders emerge. These state borders have multiplied, state borders seem to be everywhere. At the same time people come closer together. Advances in technology and transport facilitate this togetherness. Enhanced flows of migration and mobility bringing people closer together and facilitate thriving exchanges. Through growing trade and economic exchanges, welfare has quantitatively grown from a broad-brush perspective. Humanitarian thoughts have entered the security dominated world of state borders, and yet, we see people dying at borders, we see people sent back to unsafe environments, we see people in detention. People are still making their way and flee their countries in high numbers. Borders are in crisis (Vaughan-Williams 2015) and what is taking place on the Mediterranean and at the gates of Europe in the past decades and especially from 2014-2016 is only one of the examples. Governments across the world face a dilemma of being seen to act humanely but ensuring the toughness and rigorousness for their borders. People also face a dilemma, they wish to act humanely but there are security priorities such as physical, economic and social securities that override humanitarianism.

Intensifying transformations challenge state borders across the globe. We have recently witnessed the greatest ‘migration crisis’ and some of the most horrific terrorist attacks of the 21st century. The nature and configuration of borders have changed. The relationship between state borders and societies has changed. Such developments increased insecurity amongst communities and members of societies across the globe. Rising international, transnational and super-diverse societies (Mann 1996; Vertovec 2007) seem to some extent cause discomfort and a changing perception of migration and mobility in relation to insecurity is ‘haunting Europe’ on the grounds of diminishing ‘national’ or ‘own’ sovereignty or independence. For a majority of people increasing liquidity, fluidity and the forces of de-territorialization (e.g., Bauman & Lyon 2012; Paasi 2003; Tester 1993) have more a frightening effect than anything else.

Borders and their mandate are a product of negotiations between the state and its people. Over centuries this has been clear and straightforward negotiations. It was crystal-clear where the border is and what the border is. The mandate was to protect its citizens. State borders might have become more than providing security and control but represent a symbolism of social meanings that extend to deeper meanings of human life (Lamont and Molnar 2002). Simmel (1971) argued that without ‘limits’ social and cultural activity would have no form and hence instruments of interpretation of the world would become less clear and blurred. Border politics are the practices and processes of ‘othering’, that is, the construction of bordering between the not so simple dichotomy of ‘us’ and ‘them’ (Anderson 2013; van Houtum and van Naersen 2002) in societal domains such as migration, racism, welfare, class and gender.

Losing constitutive functions of territorial and identity ordering and bordering, that is border practices, is a threatening development to majorities of European societies (e.g., Vollmer 2014; Wodak 2015). The migration crisis of 2014-2016 is demonstrating this development in the most dramatic way. One of the most recent examples for these frightened majorities is the result of the EU elections in 2014/2015 and the landslide victory of far-right political parties (e.g. France, Hungary, Poland). Overly complex and new identity-constructions seemingly challenge the content and socio-psychology of European societies.

In a first paper historicizing global borders, I look at borders and their prominent place in the order of the world. Paradigmatic shifts such as globalization have altered this role of borders to a drastic extent. These global transformations of borders and the use of borders are fascinating and confusing at the same time. From the invention of the nation-state to the projects of economic trade areas, the United States of America and the vision of the United States of Europe, as well as the geopolitics of colonialism and more recent Eurocentric developments: an all-encompassing definition and use of borders were never fully and clearly comprehended, neither by the people who constructed them and administer them nor by people who live within them, cross them or simply except them. Can we talk about borders with a monolithic meaning? What are the differences among borders brought by globalization and what are the potentially new paradigmatic shifts in the world of geopolitical bordering and ordering? This paper will consider the global history of borders and elaborate on a new situation we are in. I argue that we need to examine this global bordering scene by having a closer look at theory and deepen these considerations by using individual border cases (such as the UK) and exemplify this scheme of a new age or renaissance of bordering.

In a second paper I plan to further contextualise and discuss the situation of the EU and UK borders considering more closely the current ‘migration crisis’ starting in 2014. Not only in European countries, such as Germany, 2015/2016 has introduced new and alternative ways of looking at the processes of migration and the narratives behind them. A shift of debates has been taking place. An ambiguous and at times polarized public opinion has been emerging. Similarly, an already politicised field of governance has become even more convoluted and increasingly radical views came to the fore which leave pluralistic democracies with a problem to solve for the future. Xenophobia and islamophobia become part of the everyday debates. The terror attacks in Paris represented for many people in Europe and the UK the last straw. The event has brought existing fears and anxieties to the top. With my empirical data I will be able to discuss perceptions and narratives which already existed before the migration crisis and before the terror attacks in Paris.


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