Accepted paper:

Conflicting sentiments of bureaucracies: public servants in and against the affective digital bureaucracies of Germany's new migration management

Authors:

Olaf Zenker (Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg)
Larissa Vetters (Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology)

Paper short abstract:

Conjoining the anthropology of bureaucracy, digitalization and affects/emotions, this paper explores the multiple ways in which public servants currently respond to, and against, the massive expansion of digital tools profoundly transforming Germany's administration of migration.

Paper long abstract:

Conjoining the anthropology of bureaucracy, digitalization and affects/emotions, this paper explores how public servants respond to the profound transformation of Germany's administration of migration currently taking place through the massive expansion of digital tools meant to increase decision-making capacities. Charting the emergent terrain of numerous digital technologies and work-flow-management systems in German migration management based on ethnographic fieldwork, expert interviews and document analysis, the paper focusses specifically on the conflicting sentiments of bureaucracies that such technical innovations produce. Referring to entanglements of thinking and feeling in the formation of judgements and normative decision-making within bureaucratic processes, such sentiments range from enthusiasm for the promised work simplification and increase in efficiency, via skepticism, in principle, to any innovation, to outright rejection based on a perceived loss of control through the increasingly centralized and black-boxed digital infrastructuring of decision-making from afar and the networked distribution of work-flow information, through which bureaucrats themselves become increasingly legible beyond the immediate reach of their superiors. Thus, confronted with the emergent affective digital bureaucracies of German migration management, such conflicting sentiments provide diverse orientations for public servants who find subtle ways to deal with, and act against, these new procedures. At the heart of this paper, we thus trace how conflicting bureaucratic sentiments arising within, and against, the affective digital bureaucracies of Germany's new migration management shape patterns of administrative behavior that, in deciding about the legal status of migrants, massively affects these precarious "clients" of migration management in Germany.

panel P079
Politicized bureaucrats in and beyond Europe: conflicting loyalties, professionalism and the law in the making of public services [LAWNET]