EASA2018: Staying, Moving, Settling

(Plenary B)
Migrants, refugees and public anthropology
Location Aula Magna-Auditorium
Date and Start Time 16 Aug, 2018 at 14:30
Sessions 1

Convenor

  • Ulf Hannerz (Stockholm University) email

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Short abstract

The conference theme “Staying, Moving, Settling” is clearly not only of scholarly interest – we encounter aspects of it in politics, law, the media, and public responses. Consequently, anthropological work on the issues involved can be a central field of public anthropology.

Long abstract

The 2018 EASA conference theme “Staying, Moving, Settling” is clearly not only of scholarly interest – we encounter aspects of it in politics, law, the media, and short-term and long-term public responses. Consequently, anthropological work on the issues involved should be a central field of public anthropology. This session draws on experience and expertise from different parts of Europe on the complex uses of anthropological knowledge in institutional arenas and in media, with an emphasis on the period since 2015. What are the other kinds of professional expertise we will come to interact with, and how do we communicate effectively with them? What are the practical and ethical constraints on field research in ethnographic grey zones between legal and illegal conditions, and on reporting on such research? What are the communicative skills we must identify and acquire in order to reach out persuasively beyond our academic audiences? There are important challenges here to the further development of an anthropology which is effective in the public arena.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Refugee “Crises” and Methodological Challenges: The Pursuit of Public Anthropology in Austria

Author: Andre Gingrich (Austrian Academy of Sciences) email
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Short abstract

Austria is one of the European Union countries accommodating the highest numbers of refugees since 2015. Events since then have resulted in many new challenges for local researchers. Where do our tasks as researchers end, while intersecting with our responsibilities as critical citizens?

Long abstract

In absolute numbers as well as by percentage of the resident population, Austria is one of the European Union countries that have accommodated the highest numbers of refugees from the Middle East since 2015.After an initial phase of welcoming support by large sectors of civil society, growing popular concerns were, however, instrumentalized by conservative and nationalist political forces. This has resulted in public discourses reducing each and every political issue to the topic of a “refugee crisis”, and to the takeover of federal government by a conservative-neonationalist coalition. There has been a rapid growth of deportations especially to Afghanistan, and new restrictions on legal procedures. Refugees have become increasingly insecure in relating to other refugees of current and of previous generations, and to their country of refuge. Problems of obtaining refugee status also reinforce and aggravate earlier traumatic ruptures in many lives. All this has resulted in new empirical, methodological and conceptual challenges for local researchers. There are growing ethnographic grey zones between legal and illegal conditions. The transformation of contexts raises questions about "undercover" ethnography and the limits for fieldwork. Where do our own academic potentials fade out, making cooperation with other experts is indispensable? What is legally not too grey, and what is far too grey to be communicated to the media? Where do our tasks as researchers end, while intersecting with our responsibilities as critical citizens?

Human Rights are not a Panacea: Protection Gaps in European Migration Law

Author: Marie-Claire Foblets (Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology) email
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Short abstract

European countries aim to control access to their territory. Current events show that their policies still cannot produce the desired effectiveness. Human rights have a prominent role in correcting certain injustices and serious infringements of respect for human dignity.

Long abstract

European countries have a restrictive migration policy. Their aim is to control access to their territory. After having tried to follow this policy at national level, and since these policies were unable to manage the restrictions they sought to impose, starting from the nineties the countries moved certain competencies to the European level, hoping an EU policy could better exercise that control. Current events show us every day that these policies are still not able to produce the desired effectiveness. I would like to emphasize the ever more prominent role of human rights – in the past 30 or so years - that allow, depending on each situation, to correct certain injustices or serious infringements of respect for human dignity and other fundamental rights that migrants are entitled to. In practice, however, what we see is that this corrective role is not equally effective for everyone: either, national policies remain very different, or case law is divided as to the scope of protection according to the situation, or people do not have the necessary information or are not ensured access to human rights protection. I see human rights play out in another way as well: for it to play this protective role, we see certain stratagems put in place, with people putting themselves deliberately in situations, or make claims that will enable them to make use of human rights. While recourse to these stratagems is understandable, they have a negative impact on the protective role of human rights.

Emotion and ethnography: Thoughts on outreach and its limits

Author: Ruben Andersson (University of Oxford) email
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Short abstract

These are reflections on how anthropological expertise is mobilised in debates over migration, as in the 2015 sense of crisis. The role of emotion in politics is an analytical and practical problem, needing both ethnographic scrutiny and scholarly experiments with “affective” communicative forms.

Long abstract

I will offer some brief personal reflections on how anthropological expertise gets mobilised in discussions around migration, with particular emphasis on the sense of “crisis” gripping media and policymakers in 2015 in Europe. As is well known, established “expert” positions tend to emphasise rational, abstract accounts of contentious social phenomena, migration being a strong case in point. This has serious consequences in a polarised public sphere. By reaching out into the public sphere with a “voice of reason” on highly charged topics such as migration, “experts” effectively leave the whole emotional terrain to other (political) voices. The debate becomes stuck between positions speaking different languages, separated by a reinforced borderline between rationality and affect. In other words, the role of emotion in politics is both an important analytical and practical problem, in need of further ethnographic scrutiny on the one hand, and scholarly experimentation with “affective” forms of communication, on the other.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.