"When do we stop being refugees?" A life-course approach to relational dynamics in migrant protest
(University of Trento)
Paper short abstract:
Building on the idea that relational dynamics in migrant protest are structured not only by the inequality of resources but also by individual inventiveness, this paper offers a new perspective in moving beyond the notion of the "refugee" in explaining migrant agency through personal trajectories
Paper long abstract:
During the preparation meeting for a German federal migrant activist network event in March 2018, one person who had recently arrived to Germany reportedly stood up in midst of a discussion and asked: "When do we actually stop being refugees and start being considered humans?" Within the past decade, studies of migrant activism point to the agency of people moving (illegally) across national borders. In doing so, they go beyond the dominant paradigm of the migrant as homo sacer. Seeking an approach that equally considers structure and agency, recent studies of relations between migrants and local activists indicate that rather than being fixed to a subordination-domination dyad, they are shaped both by the inequality of resources as well as by individual inventiveness and situationally changing configurations. This paper aims to expand on these ideas and contribute a new perspective to the study of migrant protest in analyzing such relational dynamics through the prism of migrants personal trajectories. Drawing on twelve months of ethnographic fieldwork within two migrant activist groups in Germany, I show that the way migrants' engage with local activists is shaped by their personal trajectories and living conditions in the local context. Thus, I propose an empirical approach that aims at raising attention to the complexity of and historical reasons for individual agency beyond the collectivities created by notions such as "refugees".
Refugees and Migrants Network and Mobilise with Activists and NGO workers