EASA2016: Anthropological legacies and human futures

(P025)
"Refugee crisis", European reactions and the role of anthropology [WCAA Panel]
Location U6-30
Date and Start Time 22 July, 2016 at 09:00
Sessions 2

Convenors

  • Michal Buchowski (Adam Mickiewicz University) email
  • Vesna Vucinic-Neskovic (University of Belgrade) email

Mail All Convenors

Short Abstract

The so-called refugee crisis in Europe has evoked various reactions of the European societies. It has polarised social groups and political leaders. These responses as well as the anthropologists' involvement in the "crisis" will be discussed in this WCAA sponsored panel.

Long Abstract

The so-called refugee crisis in Europe has evoked various reactions of the European societies. It has polarised social groups and political leaders. On the one hand, some groups and individuals expressed radically negative attitudes towards the incoming refugees from the Middle East, unprecedented in modern Europe. Hate speech motivated by ethnic, racial, and above all religious prejudices has become common and tolerated. Especially Muslims and groups associated with this religion have been targeted by the self-nominated defenders of "European culture" and "Europeans' security". Cultural fundamentalism has led to the radicalisation of the political stances. On the other hand, certain social groups and political elites have expressed their will to welcome and help refugees. Their rationale has been phrased in various ways: as humanitarian, philosophical, legal and pragmatic. Tolerance, limits of tolerance and intolerance, have again become hotly disputed issues. We would like to have descriptions and interpretations of these phenomena based on the ethnographic accounts as well as on discourse analyses. Historically and anthropologically informed accounts will shed light on the national, regional, and class differences in attitudes towards immigrants. Anthropologists' engagement in shaping structures of feelings of the European societies and in reforming the immigration policies shall also be discussed.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Tolerance in times of crisis? How the debate about refugees unsettles the past and future in Germany

Author: Sultan Doughan (UC Berkeley)  email

Short Abstract

The refugee crisis has triggered anxieties about integrating Muslims and Arabs in a liberal democracy. Holocaust education programs approach refugee camps and intervene against Antisemitism. This paper will discuss how the notion of tolerance structures citizen-subjectivities in neoliberal crisis discourse.

Long Abstract

A number of political issues in Europe have been discussed as a "crisis" including the latest influx of refugees from the Middle East. The "refugee crisis" has triggered old anxieties about integrating "Muslims" and "Arabs" in a liberal democracy. Jewish institutions and actors in Holocaust education have voiced concern that language education would not be enough to integrate refugees into liberal democratic culture. Instead, Holocaust education provided by extra-curricular programs should approach refugee camps and intervene against anti-Semitic attitudes and foster tolerance. Holocaust education programs have been deployed for the last ten years to align Muslim citizens in Germany closer with the political project of Holocaus commemoration and democratic citizenship. Now these programs are extended, without the consent of and a conversation with the targeted refugee groups. This paper will discuss how the liberal notion of tolerance structures political subjectivities in neoliberal crisis discourse. Further, it considers how tolerance as a discourse structures the definition of Antisemitism in the political context of Germany. As part of this discussion, the paper will provide ethnographic insights into how the presence of refugees unsettles the political project of past and future and how this is counteracted by institutions and actors within the field of historical-political education including a Jewish-Muslim grassroots movement. Based on ethnographic fieldwork this paper will problematize how the discourse of integrating non-European subjects through Holocaust education structures minority positions among Jewish and Muslim citizens in relation to the newly arrived refugees from the Middle East.

Understanding xenophobia from a local perspective: structural, political and cultural conditions of anti-migrant mobilization in rural Hungary

Author: Margit Feischmidt (Hungarian Academy of Sciences)  email

Short Abstract

This lecture will explore how and why anti-migrant discourses emerge in the particular socio-economic contexts of post-communist and neo-capitalist European semi-periphery.

Long Abstract

The locality analyzed in the case study is a village on the Hungarian side of Serbian-Hungarian border which was crossed by hundreds of thousands of migrants during the last year. The village has a countrywide reputation because of its far right major. By securitizing the migrant issue he not only has stabilized his power, but by documenting his local interventions on social media he could effectively authenticate and spread the panic nationally and to some extent even globally. By applying an ethnographic approach, the paper seeks to uncover structural forces, discourses and agencies that help to explain the success of a multi-layer anti-migrant mobilization campaign (on national, local and international level). Using narrative data it shows how despite of physical and social contacts the "aliens" could be converted into "enemies" due to the role of racializing discourses spread on social media, in political and everyday talk. The paper also demonstrates that social contacts and very few cases of solidarity were controlled and reconfigured by real and virtual discourses of disgust, fear and dehumanization. The analysis will incorporate theories of migration, racism and xenophobia, as well as far right politics and its mainstreaming in European societies.

"Together we can": local institutions' struggle to deal with the refugee influx

Author: Annett Fleischer (Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity)  email

Short Abstract

This paper examines how local institutions such as city council, social worker associations and volunteer organisations respond to the influx of refugees and asylum seekers in Germany.

Long Abstract

According to German's Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF), more than one million asylum seekers and refugees reached Germany in the year 2015, which is the largest influx of newcomers in all European countries. A recently passed government policy requires that newcomers are distributed evenly across communities. Thus, local governments and municipalities struggle to find or set up space to shelter migrants, provide them with basic needs and create a structure to support them. By participating in a number of workshops, town-hall meetings and dialog boards as well as by interviewing state officials, city councillors, social workers, NGO members, volunteers and others, I analyse how various institutions react to the - in many cases - sudden and increasing number of asylum seekers and refugees in their communities. In doing so, this paper examines the often heated debates as communities struggle to keep up with the influx. I will be presenting first preliminary results from an ongoing ethnographic research project illustrating the view of different actors involved including asylum seekers themselves and local institutions. In this regard, the meaning of terms such as "refugee" and "integration" and how they are used by the various actors will be explored from different perspectives.

Europe deports: journeys and objects under the Dublin Regulation

Author: Paolo Grassi (University of Padova)  email

Short Abstract

This paper is the result of a combination of an experience in participative social research and an experiment in documentary photography. It will focuses on a group of "Dublinated" refugee seekers living in a refugee centre near Varese.

Long Abstract

This paper is the result of a combination of an experience in participative social research and an experiment in documentary photography. It will focuses on a group of refugee seekers living in a refugee centre in the province of Varese (Italy) that seeks to shed light on European laws on asylum. It will analyses the communitarian regulation that forces refugee seekers to return to the first European country in which they enter to ask for protection and wait for bureaucracy to take its course - effectively deporting them. The paper will report the life stories of five refugees, complemented with photographic works. The visual component shirks sensationalism, instead using the still life technique: presenting objects chosen by the refugee seekers themselves to represent the things they brought with them during their journeys to Europe.

New neighbors: local pragmatics and the perception of asylum centers in rural Denmark

Author: Birgitte Romme Larsen (University of Copenhagen)  email

Short Abstract

In Denmark the placement of asylum centers in rural areas affects local communities demographically and economically and reshapes their collective lives and self-understandings, as they look for pragmatic ways forward from a local crisis to which asylum seekers are perceived a solution, not a cause

Long Abstract

Asylum centers in rural areas are an increasingly common mode of managing asylum seekers in Denmark. The centers' rural location is significant for asylum seekers, but they also can have important consequences for the local communities in which they are placed. In a context of increased depopulation of the Danish countryside, the growing arrival of asylum seekers and the various jobs deriving from their presence significantly affect local communities, both financially and socially. Based on an ethnographic study at three separate rural sites, the paper examines the consequences and meanings of asylum centers for Danish rural communities, with a particular view to the local pragmatism that these consequences/meanings are simultaneously shaped from and producing. While civil society mobilization and volunteerism may foster increased contact and neighborliness between locals and asylum seekers, at times local inhabitants may as well respond by practices of rejection/separation. Thus while co-existence in the harmonious sense between Danes and asylum seekers is not always given, the physical presence of asylum centers (re)shapes the social lives and self-understandings of local rural communities notwithstanding, as they look for pragmatic, rather than ideological, ways forward from their situation of demographic and economic crisis. In contrast with the national level of dispute, in many instances, this pragmatic outlook means that locally, regardless of political stance, the placement and presence of asylum seekers comes to be seen as part of a solution to this crisis, not a reason behind it. Co-researchers: Zachary Whyte and Karen Fog Olwig, UCPH

Sexuality, feminism, and the limits and possibilities of solidarity in Germany

Author: Petra Rethmann (McMaster University)  email

Short Abstract

In Germany the sexual assaults that happened in Cologne have unleashed a serious debate. I look at the ways in which these events have become instrumentalized to make arguments against refugees. I look at the ways in which anthropology should draw on political critique to intervene into debates.

Long Abstract

In Germany, the sexual assaults that happened on New Year's Eve in Cologne have unleashed a variety of questions and debates: Who comes, from where, and under what conditions? Should the German government set an upper limit regarding the number of refugees? How can Germany ensure a move from a Willkommenskultur to an Integrationskultur, and how can it avoid - as has happened in the past - the emergence of "parallel societies" (Parallelgesellschaften)? In this talk I will look at the ways in which in Germany the events of Cologne have become politically instrumentalized to make arguments against the acceptance of immigrants and refugees, the kind of role sexuality - in particular male, Islamophobic, and Orientalist notions of sexuality - play in this debate, and how critical publics - including feminists - react to this debate. I also look at the ways in which anthropology needs to draw on a long and venerable tradition of political critique to intervene into existent and frequently harmful debates.

Overheating hatreds: local responses to forced migration in Hungary

Author: Cathrine Thorleifsson (University of Oslo)  email

Short Abstract

This paper analyses local responses to forced migration in Hungary. Examining discourses and practices of the radial right, it argues that the ‘migration crisis’ led to a reconfiguration of old hatreds, adding an Islamophobic layer to antisemitic conspiratorial thinking.

Long Abstract

This paper analyses local responses to forced migration in Hungary. Based on multi-sided fieldwork in 2015, it explores how the boundaries of the nation were reinforced and reimagined in relation to migrants in transit on their way to other European destinations. Examining discourses and practices of the radial right, it shows how violent imaginaries of the alleged threats posed by migrants from Muslim majority lands to Christian civilization, national cohesion and culture were heating old and new hatreds. An Islamophobic layer emerged in the far right´s grammar of exclusion that traditionally has targeted the country´s Roma minority and Jews. At the same time, concerned Hungarians contested racialised securitization and suspicion, reinscribing bios to 'human waste' deemed disruptive by the nation-state. The contradictory interpretations of migrants as waste or value, burden or benefit, parallel struggles over statehood and identity in globalised Hungary- between a society open to diversification processes and one that closes its borders to difference, on a sliding path towards an illiberal state.

"They are not like us": how do 'old' and 'new' refugees experience the unraveling of the refugee crisis

Author: Andrea Verdasco (University of Copenhagen)  email

Short Abstract

This paper will examine the shifting understandings of the category “refugee” among young Muslim refugees, ‘old’ and ‘new’ arriving to Denmark before and during the “refugee crisis”.

Long Abstract

The number of young refugees arriving in Europe has risen sharply over the past year (UNCHR 2015), even as the asylum policy landscape has shifted dramatically across the continent. Scandinavia is no exception, here asylum policies have become increasingly restrictive in the past year, marked by the border controls between Sweden and Denmark and the Danish government's 'jewelry law', which recently made international headlines. This has affected the lives of the young refugees who arrived before and during the "refugee crisis". Drawing from 12 months of ethnographic fieldwork with young refugees in Denmark, who arrived as 'unaccompanied minors', I explore how public discourses have infiltrated the narratives of Muslim refugees. In the first part I will delve into the narratives of those who have been in Denmark for a few years, the more 'established' refugees, and how they perceive the arrival of the newcomers from other parts of the Muslim world. How do public discourses affect perceptions of categories? "It is OK they [Syrians] are coming, cause I am also refugee. If they come I don't want them to destroy the culture of Denmark; I am afraid if one Syrian girl do this, it will affect my situation, this is the reason why I am afraid." How do more established refugees take ownership over labeling and categories? In the second part I will shift the lens to the 'newcomers', those who have been arriving over the past year, to provide an understanding of how restrictive policies of the Danish welfare state affect their everyday lives in Denmark.

Belgrade in autumn: the making of everyday life for migrants from the Middle East passing through Serbia

Author: Vesna Vucinic-Neskovic (University of Belgrade)  email

Short Abstract

This is an account of how migrants from the Middle East accommodated themselves in two Belgrade parks situated next to the main city bus station, and how their daily life was shaped with the assistance of the health institutions, religious communities, NGOs, and individual volunteers.

Long Abstract

The two Belgrade parks situated next to the main city bus station became stop-over places for the migrants from the Middle East passing through Serbia on their way to the European Union. From June 2015 onward, the number of migrants had been visibly increasing to reach the peak in August, when the parks became crowded camping sites for the Syrian, Afghani and Pakistani travelers that stayed there from a few hours to a few days. Following the practice I established for my Urban Anthropology courses at the University of Belgrade, to capture and study (in a lab-like setting) the most critical social/cultural phenomena occurring in the city, a group of 30 junior year students formed an ad hoc project to investigate the situation in-and-around the incoming migrants. The focus was placed on three groups -- the migrants staying in the parks, the institutions and NGOs providing on the spot assistance, and the Belgraders working or living in the vicinity.

Based on fieldwork observation and interviews performed in autumn 2015, this paper will present how the migrants' everyday life was being created at interface of the cultural practices they brought along from their countries of origin, the given spatial and infrastructural setting in the two Belgrade parks, and the assistance provided by their temporary institutional and individual caretakers. The paper will discuss the lessons that are to be learned about the behavior patterns of migrants appearing at stop-over places along the migration routes.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.