Perspectives from the Humanities and Social Sciences

Forest, forest, forest; sometimes we sleep; walking, sleep, walking, sleep; it’s dangerous on this way: Entanglements of the Irregularized Migration Regime at the Periphery of EU

Marijana Hameršak, Iva Pleše

The final closure of the ad hoc Balkan refugee corridor in March 2016 did not stop the movement of people across the Balkans towards the EU. Men, women and children continued to move along the trail known as the Balkan route. One branch of this route, active since 2018, is one of the most frequently used and goes through north-west Bosnia and Herzegovina, clandestinely proceeds into Croatia, which serves as an entrance country into the EU, then continues into Slovenia, which acts as an entrance into the Schengen area. This led to some regions of Croatia becoming an area of high migratory movement. In this paper, we deal with the mentioned clandestine movement as it is represented in the so-called pushbacks reports published by activists from border areas in Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. These reports, based on the testimonies of people who were pushed back to Bosnia, focus on the violence committed against unwanted foreigners or »irregulars« on the EU external borders, but also describe their movement through the borderlands. In our paper, we strive to present this movement in relation to the specific physical surroundings in which it happens. Our focus will be on the mountains and the forests, which form an integral part of the regions in question and an arena for migratory movements and struggles. Besides highlighting the entanglement of the physical surroundings of the movement and the movement itself, the interpretation will also look at the efforts to immobilize the movement (by police apprehensions) and its re-directions backward (also carried out by the police), i.e., pushbacks as a technology of the EU border control regime on its external borders.

Marijana Hameršak is a senior research associate at the Institute of Ethnology and Folklore Research (Zagreb) and a titular assistant professor. Her main areas of research are migration, children's literature and book history. She is the author of two books and has edited several collections, most recently Formation and Disintegration of the Balkan Refugee Corridor (with Emina Bužinkić, 2018).

Iva Pleše is a research associate at the Institute of Ethnology and Folklore Research (Zagreb). Her main areas of research are ethnography of writing and correspondence, ethnography of refugeeness and migration, methodology and fieldwork in ethnology. She is the author of a book based on ethnography of writing and correspondence, and co-editor for two research collections.

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Multilayered (Im)Mobilizations and the European Border Spectacle

Panos Hatziprokopiou, Alexandra Siotou, Filyra Vlastou, Eva Papatzani, Benjamin Etzold

On the Greek Aegean island tens of thousands of refugees and other migrants have been immobilized. In its periphery, the EU runs registration and identification centers (RIC) were screenings and asylum procedures separate the inflow of people into ‘refugees’ that might be re-mobilized and re-settled to the mainland and ‘migrants’ who are to be returned to Turkey or released with an order to leave the country. As people cannot that neatly be put into boxes and as the system had been overwhelmed by the number of arrivals and, in particular, by the lack of resources and political will to provide more humane solutions, long-term situations of immobility have evolved on the islands. Asylum-seekers and migrants who are caught in such protracted displacement situations experience extreme precarity and legal insecurity as well as hostility in social relations with local populations. Despite being somewhat ‘locked in’, the local constellations are far from static but undergo constant change, recently in particular due to changing laws and political frameworks at the national and the EU-level, the Corona-Pandemic, racist violence and the fires, throughout which migrants have been selectively mobilized and im-mobilized. The contribution dissects the multi-layered figurations of (im)mobility and (im)mobilization in Greece and how they have been transformed in the wake of recent political decisions, the COVID19 pandemic (or fear thereof) and the orchestrated emergency of the Moria fire, which is part of a much broader European border spectacle. We will thereby not limit our analysis to the ongoing ‘constellation of crisis’ on the Aegean islands but also widen the debate by shedding light on the Greek states’ practices of immobilizing displaced people in the metropolises of Athens and Thessaloniki and how the affected subjects cope with and resist their enforced immobilization.

Panos-Arion Hatziprokopiou is a social geographer and migration scholar, currently Associate Professor of Migration and Urban Space at the School of Spatial Planning and Development, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. He has studied economics, sociology and human geography in Greece and the UK and holds a PhD in Migration studies from the University of Sussex. His research interests span across different aspects of migration and migrants’ settlement and incorporation, with a focus on employment and housing geographies, as well as diversity and difference in the metropolis. He leads research on the Greek case for the EU-funded research project TRAFIG – Transnational Figurations of Displacement.

Eva (Evangelia) Papatzani is a PhD candidate in Urban Social Geography, at the Department of Urban and Regional Planning, National Technical University of Athens, with an MSc in Urban and Regional Planning (NTUA) and a Diploma in Architecture (AUTH). Her research focuses on the geographies of migrant settlement, diversity and difference in urban space, interethnic networks and sociospatial segregation, urban tranformations and urban policies. She has participated as a Researcher in several European and national research projects, and she currently leads research on Athens for the EU-funded research project TRAFIG – Transnational Figurations of Displacement.

Filyra Vlastou is a social psychologist and a PhD student in human geography at the Paris 1 Panthèon – Sorbonne and the National Technical University in Athens (co-direction). She studied psychology and research methods in social sciences in Greece (Panteion University) and France (Paris Descartes University). She is interested in the politics and spatialities of urban migration particularly focusing on the living together dynamics between migrants and locals in diverse urban spaces. She has participated in national and international research programs on migration and is currently conducting research for the EU funded projects TRAFIG – Transnational Figurations of Displacement, as well as on the post-2016 Turkish immigration in Athens.

Alexandra Siotou holds a PhD in Social Anthropology from the University of Thessaly. Her research focuses on the affective dimensions of migration and displacement, while she experiments with alternative methods of producing and disseminating anthropological knowledge. She currently participates in the EU-funded research project TRAFIG – Transnational Figurations of Displacement and teaches as an Adjunct Professor at the Department of History, Archaeology and Social Anthropology at the University of Thessaly.

Benjamin Etzold is a social geographer and migration scholar working at the Bonn International Center for Conversion (BICC), a German peace and conflict studies think tank. He holds a PhD in Geography from the University of Bonn. He works on patterns and trajectories of migration and displacement and studies people’s vulnerabilities, livelihoods, social relations, and mobilities in different regions. Currently, he leads the interdisciplinary, international, and EU-funded research project TRAFIG – Transnational Figurations of Displacement. The project aims to better understand how displaced people make use of translocal networks and mobilities to overcome conditions of protracted displacement.

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When Mobility is Postponed: How the Recent Coronavirus Pandemic Affected Refugees Sheltering in Greek Reception Centers

Chrysi Kyratsou

In this paper, I discuss how the recent (ongoing) pandemic has intensified the marginalization of refugees sheltering in reception centers in Greece, as I experienced it occurring amidst my fieldwork. »Refugee reception centers« are the spaces of their »accommodation«, or rather the spaces that are allocated to them. They are at a distance from the urban settings, reinforcing spatially existing asymmetries between those who have a (more secure) place within the host society, and those who are waiting for their status to be recognized.
While being »on the move«, refugees occupy a distinct position in global movements, as they are bodies who do not control capital, therefore they are »more expendable or peripheral« (see Dolby and Rizvi 2008). As sovereignty remains the dominant form of political order in the modern world, it further shapes a fundamental dichotomy between those who possess the legitimate political subjectivity (citizenship), and refugees, who, having fled from their home-state, have lost the privileges of having citizenship (Nyers 2006: 9). Additionally, until they receive a decision over their asylum request to define their status, they occupy the »grey« category of »asylum seeker«. Having lost their »home«, they are in limbo finding a new one.
The pandemic and the measures assumed for its restriction affected refugees in multiple ways, deteriorating their already hard living conditions, and increasing the precarity and uncertainty they experience. Moreover, they highlighted the asymmetries between those who benefit from a legitimate belonging to a nation-state, and those who are in search of it. The discussion is structured around the following questions:
What does »social distance« and »lockdown« mean for an asylum seeker sheltering in reception center? What are the implications for the refugees’ movement »into« the host society?

Chrysi Kyratsou is a PhD student at Queen’s University Belfast supported by NBDTP-AHRC and recipient of the BFE Fieldwork Grant (2019). Her academic interests are in musicking, migration, encounters, and cultural flows. Chrysi’s fieldwork research into refugees’ sheltering in reception centers musicking, explores the role music plays in their daily life. She is particularly interested in how refugees’ aesthetic agencies are informed by the shifting backgrounds in which they live, and how they shape their sociality. She has a background in Music and Music Education.

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From Boats to Camps to Houses to Homes: Tracing Im/Mobilities in Contemporary Vietnamese American Refugee Literature

Carole Martin

The end of the Vietnam War/American War in 1975 saw hundreds of thousands of South Vietnamese citizens fleeing to the United States and other countries, most of them abandoning their homelands in perilous journeys by boat. Refugees’ stories, ranging from subjects of flight across oceans and detainment in camps to eventual arrivals and attempts of settling in new environments, reveal how mobility politics are unevenly regulating mobilities and immobilities. Through the lens of Vietnamese American literary productions by authors such as Viet Thanh Nguyen, the aim of this paper is to scrutinize the material conditions, political contexts and competing imaginaries of refugees’ displacement with particular consideration of their im/mobilities. The focus lies on narratives by members of the 1.5 generation, who were born in Vietnam and forced to move at a young age. Despite their distance to the war, they continue to foreground themes of exodus and dislocation, problematizing the transgenerational consequences of trauma and refugeehood, which is not discarded upon arriving on new shores. Moreover, accounts of returns further illustrate the complex dynamics of entangled im/mobilities between those who left and those who remained in a country marked by post-war transformations. Encoding a variety of different refugee subjectivities and complementing current discussions in the emerging field of critical refugee studies, these narratives demonstrate determined Vietnamese American self-representations to counteract simplified portrayals that construct refugees as passive and helpless victims.

Carole Martin is currently employed at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, where she started her doctorate in American History, Culture and Society as a member of the Graduate School Language and Literature, Class of Literature. Her dissertation project focuses on contemporary Vietnamese American literature. Previously, she completed her BA and MA in English and Anthropology at the Universities of Basel and Vienna. Her main research interests lie in the interdisciplinary fields of refugee studies, transnational migration, and postcolonial theory.

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