Accepted paper:

'Being like a snake' - Street-level bureaucrats' Conceptions of Law in European Migration Enforcement

Authors:

Lisa Marie Borrelli (Bern University)

Paper short abstract:

How do street-level bureaucrats understand law and make use of it? What are the consequences of their understanding and use of law? This paper analyses state agents, working in migration enforcement, balancing between emotional encounters and they interpretation of legal conceptions.

Paper long abstract:

Understanding, shaping and making law are daily tasks of street-level bureaucrats working within the field of migration enforcement. While they have to juggle between often very emotional encounters with their clients, they also retain personal ideas and positions of they everyday practices, in particular about law. These positions are characterised by an own set of emotional responses, but also defined by tactical strategies and game-like situations where state agents are left with sufficient discretionary space to test their ability to strategically make use of law. Being left with sometimes little guidance they need to define their possibilities to apply law, circumvent it or refrain from their tactical strategies. Further, sate agents struggle with black letter law and its implementation due to their own moral ideas and thus perceive law as unfair or punitive. Thus, following the idea of law being arbitrary and already inherently discriminating, this work is interested in following street-level agents' differentiation between law and legality. Much like Ewick and Silbey (1998), it aims for an analysis how far and majestic, but also real law is perceived in the everyday life of public administration. This paper is based on ethnographic fieldwork within migration enforcement agencies, including the border police and migration offices in Latvia, Sweden and Switzerland. It will examine how street-level bureaucrats understand law and make use of it. Further, it is interested in the consequences of their understanding and use of law for their clients.

panel P063
The anthropology of emotions and law [LAW NET]