EASA2016: Anthropological legacies and human futures

(P101)
Political subjectivities in the face of displacement: claiming rights, belonging, and social citizenship [ANTHROMOB]
Location U6-1F
Date and Start Time 20 July, 2016 at 14:30
Sessions 2

Convenors

  • Heike Drotbohm (Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz) email
  • Nina Glick Schiller (University of Manchester) email
  • Ayse Caglar (University of Vienna) email

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Short Abstract

This panel explores the political meanings of rights, processes of multiple emplacements & claims to social citizenship for transnational subjects. Attention is paid to the right to settle and the right to move and the basis for social solidarities that link people to localities and across borders.

Long Abstract

Mobile people, approached as the 'migrant', the 'nomad' or the 'traveller,' are said to characterize a world that was no longer configured by bounded ways of being. More recently, in the name of identifying and respecting difference, some anthropologists have returned to studying discrete and persistent ontologies, often minimizing globe-spanning forces of dispossession. The study of power and contestation through struggle, denial and flight have been set aside rather than linked to the emergence of political subjectivities that respond to, reshape, and reconstitute differential relations of power. In the face of realities of hundreds of thousands of people on the move through the dispossessive forces of war, deportation, expulsion from ancestral lands, urban regeneration, and resurgent ethno-religious nationalisms, this panel calls for ways to build an analytical framework that can address contemporary multiple struggles against displacement through the lens of political subjectivities. This approach facilitates explorations of the political meanings of rights, processes of multiple emplacements and claims to belonging and social citizenship for transnational subjects. Analytical attention is paid to the right to settle as well as the right to move and the basis for social solidarities that may link people to localities and across borders.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Trajectories of re-emplacement and re-possession among displaced people in São Paulo, Brazil

Author: Heike Drotbohm (Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz)  email

Short Abstract

This paper traces the positions and perspectives of displaced people who recently arrived in the Brazilian city of São Paulo and who have to make sense of the requirements and eligibility categories of institutions that provide, at least temporarily, access to housing and support.

Long Abstract

This paper traces the positions and perspectives of internal migrants, foreigners, refugees and homeless people who recently arrived in the Brazilian city of São Paulo and who have to make sense of the requirements and eligibility categories of institutions that provide, at least temporarily, access to housing, labour, contact with other institutions and financial support. The presentation will rely on anthropological fieldwork carried out in different institutional settings which targetted different types of persons in need. In daily routine, displaced and dispossessed people mix and interact and reflect on differences and commonalities regarding their biographical trajectories. The question how legally powerful categories are interpreted and enacted, but also contested and subverted, stands at the centre of my research. Especially during the initial transit phase after arrival, when the subject's belonging is questioned in radical ways, migrants compete with other local vulnerable groups, such as the homeless or the urban poor and their interaction with humanitarian bureaucracies shapes an understanding of their particular rights. At the same time, these social spaces also allow for the production of communalities, socialities and solidarities that transcend and question these categorical differences.

Bodies, classifications, circulations: the making of political subjectivities in transnational social fields

Authors: Katharina Schramm (Free University Berlin)  email
Kristine Krause (University of Amsterdam)  email

Short Abstract

Our paper offers a theoretical perspective on political subjectivity, focusing on the dynamic interplay of identification (classification) and identity (belonging) as well as its multiple effects, including pain and desire, in transnational social fields.

Long Abstract

Responding to the call to work together on an analytical framework that addresses contemporary struggles for recognition, right to mobility/settlement and belonging in transnational social fields, our paper offers a theoretical perspective on political subjectivity. We conceptualise political subjectivity as the changing positions from which groups or individuals become recognizable as actors, articulate themselves, and can address authorities (including, but not restricted to, state bodies) in multiple ways. Our understanding of political subjectivity (cf. Krause & Schramm 2011) focuses on the dynamic interplay of identification (classification) and identity (belonging) as well as its multiple effects, including pain and desire. Based on our research on undocumented migrants in Europe (Kristine Krause) and transnational postcolonial indigeneity in South Africa (Katharina Schramm), we outline three intersecting aspects in the articulation of political subjectivity:

First, we discuss in the ways in which particular bodies become marked and classified (e.g. as disabled, racialized or carrier of genetic dispositions).

Second, we call attention to the processes and specific moments of interpellation by which these bodies become the ground for claim making and institutional recognition (or denial thereof).

Third, we take into account the role of transnational circulations (not only of people, but also of intersecting knowledge platforms) in the making of political subjects.

"The British Boy": articulating belonging in the face of deportation

Author: Melanie Griffiths (University of Bristol)  email

Short Abstract

Drawing on research with ‘deportable’ men and their citizen partners, I examine irregular male migrants’ articulations of claims to be ‘almost citizens’ in the face of increasing legal precarity, State counters to such claims, and the ensuing civic estrangements of the citizens close to these men.

Long Abstract

The British government is committed - both in rhetoric and resources - to increasing the rate at which non-citizens are deported. This comes after a decade of political and media hype regarding the expulsion of immigration offenders, refused asylum seekers and - particularly - foreign ex-prisoners. Contemporary folk devil categories, such as the 'illegal immigrant', 'bogus asylum seeker' and 'foreign criminal', suggest clear lines distinguishing between undesirable aliens and incontrovertible citizens. Although rarely the case, such lines are especially blurred when non-citizens can articulate claims to belong on the basis of blood, emotion or time. In the UK, and justified as closing a loophole exploited by criminals, considerable political effort has been expended in negating such 'democratic' grounds to belonging, including by dramatically raising the threshold before which Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights can challenge deportation decisions. This paper draws on qualitative research with couples and families consisting of irregular male migrants and British citizens, as well as observation of deportation appeals and other immigration hearings. It explores how these 'deportable' men seek to articulate identities as 'almost citizens', in the face of diminishing legitimate legal bases by which to do so, and how this is countered by State emphases of alterity and wickedness. The paper also explores the civic estrangement of the Britons close to these men, and how governmental attempts to deport their partner or child's parent, result in these women renegotiating their own sense of belonging and the meaning of citizenship itself.

The fact of birth: antenatal care, identification documents, and shan migrant women in Thailand

Author: Bo Kyeong Seo (Free University Berlin )  email

Short Abstract

Drawing on discussions of sovereignty and political subjectivization I ask how the fact of birth is constituted at the margins of the state. I argue that enacting birth documents offers a chance for Shan migrant women in Chiang Mai to bridge the interstice between man and citizen.

Long Abstract

For transnational migrant populations, securing birth documents of newly born children has crucial importance in avoiding statelessness for new generations. Drawing on discussions of sovereignty and political subjectivization I ask how the very fact of birth is constituted at the margins of the state. Based on ethnographic data collected from an antenatal clinic in Chiang Mai, I explore how Shan migrant women from Burma utilize reproductive health services as a way of assuring a safe birth while acquiring identification documents. Paying close attention to technologies of inscription adopted for maternal care and birth registration, I argue that enacting bureaucratic documents offers a chance for migrant women to bridge the interstice between man and citizen. Birth certificates for migrant children, while embodying legal ambiguity and uncertainty, epitomize non-citizen subjects' assertion of their political relationship with the state.

Understanding displacement and globe-spanning forces of dispossession: power and new political subjectivities in the 'new culture of hospitality' in grassroots responses to Europe's migration crisis

Author: Giulia Sinatti (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam)  email

Short Abstract

This paper suggests a framework to understand displacement and global dispossession in the context of the European migration crisis that looks at power dynamics and emerging political subjectivities in everyday encounters between migrant mobilities and citizens engaged in welcoming initiatives

Long Abstract

In this paper, I use the current European migration crisis as a backdrop to rethink predominant analytical frameworks for the understanding of displacement and globe-spanning forces of dispossession. As Europe experiences the largest inflow of migrants and refugees since WWII, anthropologists address this drama in two main ways. On the one hand, scholars inspired by autonomous migration theory celebrate the agency of people on the move and frame migration as a politically subversive act. On the other hand, scholars inspired by securitization theory analyze the inner workings of the system of European border control and uncover how the issue is de-politicized by stripping migrants of their 'human-ness'. I argue that both these approaches conceive mobility as oppositional to borders and that both are inappropriate to grasp the full complexity of power dynamics and political subjectivities as they unfold on the ground. The migration crisis, in fact, has generated unprecedented responses on behalf of European residents, who have engaged in spontaneous initiatives to welcome migrants. These initiatives speak to how connections are experienced and established in everyday encounters with multiple forms of displacement as: i. Power shapes relationships between hosts and guests; ii. Solidarity bonds are created between people locally and across national borders; iii. New political subjectivities are constituted and mobilize around the right to move and settle. Inspired by debates in anthropology of mobility, I suggest a framework that invites to look at these every day relational processes as well as at the political subjectivities that inform them

Struggles against dis/placement: political subjectivities evolving on migratory trajectories

Author: Inga Schwarz (Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg)  email

Short Abstract

Analyzing dis/placement from a subject-oriented long-term and long-distance perspective, the methodological approach of trajectory analysis offers an analytical framework to shed light on political subjectivities of those being dis/placed and positioning themselves on their migratory trajectories.

Long Abstract

In the context of my research project on the il/legalization of im/mobility in Europe, I am following migratory trajectories to shed light on changing conditions concerning the right to stay and the right to move. Travelling along, I am confronted with multiple struggles against dis/placement of those migrating, being placed, reallocated, deported and deprived of their right to decide whether to stay or to move. Thus, how to analytically grasp evolving dis/placed political subjectivities on different stages of migratory trajectories turned out to be a key question of my research project.

The newly emerging methodological design of 'trajectory ethnography' provides a long-distance and long-term perspective on dis/placement and self-positioning by following migratory trajectories through changing geographical, political, legal and social settings. The perspective exceeds the idea of migration as a bipolar relocation from A to B and interconnects local, regional and transnational im/mobilities as passages of the same migratory project. Taking a subject-oriented perspective it enables us to concentrate on the scope of action migrants develop at different stages of their journeys and thus offers the possibility of a differentiated analysis of changing political subjectivities being shaped by and shaping migratory trajectories. The paper argues that trajectory analysis offers a highly valuable analytical framework to follow migratory im/mobilities through changing political settings and by adopting a subject-oriented approach, offers the possibility to analyze and interconnect changing political subjectivities of those being dis/placed and positioning themselves on their migratory trajectories.

Dispossession processes and the displaced: multiscalar approaches to political subjectivites

Author: Nina Glick Schiller (University of Manchester)  email

Short Abstract

In a global conjuncture marked by accumulation by dispossession, many categorized as migrants and those 'natives' facing precarity share a position of displacement. When does displacement lead to the recognition of commonalities, shared aspirations for social justice, and new solidarities?

Long Abstract

This paper introduces the panel by querying the links between displacement, dispossession and political subjectivities. Political leaders and as well as many anthropologist assume a basic divide of identity, culture, or subjectivities between migrants and those categorized as natives. Doing so, they reinforce the binaries concretized by methodological nationalist orientations that naturalize state borders and citizenship categories. These binaries of difference obscure past and present underlying processes of global capital accumulation. A closer examination of these processes reminds us of the ways in which various forms of appropriation of labor, land, resources, and homes are interrelated. Currently, the contradictions of newly intensified processes of accumulation by dispossession intensify these connections as this relationship of capital leads to the displacement of increasing numbers of people around the world. Accumulation through dispossession displaces people through the mechanisms of war, violence, the appropriation of customary rights and the eviction of the poor through urban regeneration. Many holding formal citizenship rights share displacement and the related processes of criminalization, racialization, and dehumanization with those forced to flee their homes and cross international border These global transformation call for new displacement studies. Emerging questions include when and where does displacement lead to the recognition of commonalities, shared aspirations for social justice, and new solidarities? In what ways does our research on transnational lives, citizenship, and belonging facilitate or preclude us from being able to explore connections, relationalities, and sociabiities that can fuel global struggles for social justice?

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.