Accepted Paper:

Coming together in refugee work in Berlin: notes on an engaged experiment in collaborative ethnography  


Johanna Gonçalves Martín (École Plytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne)
Nasima Selim (Freie Universität Berlin)
Seth Holmes (University of California Berkeley)
Maria Ibiß (Quadriga University Berlin)
Mustafa Abdalla (Free University Berlin)
Gabriela Jaschke (Flüchtlingsrat Brandenburg)

Paper short abstract:

We reflect on how an ethnographic collaboration may be an ideal configuration for engaging in the current debate on a ‘double crisis’ of refugees and right wing extremism in Germany. (Note that authors are listed in alphabetical order, representing non-hierarchical collaboration.)

Paper long abstract:

Refugee crisis. Refugee work. Willkomenskultur. One of our aims in this article is to destabilise these terms with a recent experiment in collaborative ethnography. In 2015 Germany was in the middle of a 'refugee crisis'. The Willkommenskultur (Welcoming Culture) trope gained political prominence with a proliferation of local volunteer initiatives supporting the refugees on one hand. On the other hand there was a parallel rise of the conservative and right wing protests/attacks against the refugees and their supporters. Berlin, the city where most of us lived at that time, found its administrative structures challenged by the large number of refugees arriving each day. Amidst hundreds of other volunteer initiatives worth mentioning, in this article we focus on one particular event that took place in autumn 2015. We brought together sufi musicians, anthropologists, refugees, friends and a variety of people from 'the public' for a small concert. The results of that experiment will illustrate several points. Instead of 'refugee crisis' we will show how a 'double crisis' is in place. How 'refugee work' is not exclusively about humanitarian aid directed to alleviate suffering but involves multiple facets of life that includes joy, pleasure and well-being. How the Willkommenskultur of a city begins with welcoming the newcomers by the host society members but moves beyond emergency state and collective interventions, in coming together. In a dialogic presentation between two of the authors, we will reflect on the possibilities afforded by a collaborative (and inherently partial) ethnography in engaging in public debates.

Panel P099
Going public: writing and speaking outside the ivory tower