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Accepted Paper:

Prefiguring the Commons in the German Asylum System  
Ziga Podgornik-Jakil (European University Viadrina Frankfurt (Oder))

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores how asylum-related activist movements in Berlin engaged in prefigurative politics of commoning before, during, and after the 2015 European Long Summer of Migration to resist social and political exclusion imposed by the German asylum system.

Paper long abstract:

In this paper, I am concerned with prefigurative politics of "commoning" that are emerging as a reaction to the political and social exclusion of asylum-seekers in Germany. I focus on the notion of "commons" as imagined and practiced by local "anti-deportation" and "no-camp" activists. Local citizen activists build relationships of solidarity with asylum-seekers with the vision of a possible future in which the German asylum system is abolished, and with it the corresponding migration regime that deprives asylum-seekers of most citizenship rights and obliges them to remain in refugee facilities. However, between activists' far-reaching demands for equal rights for all asylum-seekers and solidarity-based care work to improve the immediate precarious situation of asylum-seekers, the activists' prefigurative forms of engagement are full of hope for social change, but also full of complexities that have led to frustration. Based on my fieldwork in Berlin with asylum-related activist movements since 2014, I highlight the heterogeneous practices of commoning carried out by local activists and asylum-seekers that challenge the German asylum regime, particularly the obligation for asylum-seekers to stay in refugee facilities. I also show how these practices are embedded in the longer history of refugee social movements in Germany that, among other demands, seek the closure of mass refugee shelters in order to achieve equal housing rights for non-citizens. I conclude by showing how my examples of asylum-related activism can contribute to broader discussions of "commons" as a means of resisting the alienating effects of contemporary life characterized by nationalism and capitalism.

Panel P164b
Times of crisis, times of hope? Movements and collaborations between transformative potential and reification [Anthropology and Social Movements Network]
  Session 1 Thursday 28 July, 2022, -