Conference Agenda

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Session Overview
RN35_06a: Re-thinking Migration: Conceptual Challenges and Innovative Perspectives I
Thursday, 22/Aug/2019:
2:00pm - 3:30pm

Session Chair: Kenneth Horvath, University of Lucerne
Location: BS.G.26
Manchester Metropolitan University Building: Business School, Ground Floor Oxford Road

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Borders, Migration and Class in an Age of Crisis: Producing Immigrants and Workers

Tom Vickers

Nottingham Trent University, United Kingdom

This paper examines how categories of ‘workers’, ‘migrants’, and associated subcategories have been structured and mobilised in recent years within populist representations of ‘migrant crisis’ and ‘welfare crisis’, to facilitate capitalist exploitation. The paper situates mobility in relation to class formation and exploitation through the concept of labour process, which highlights the importance of capitalist control over movement, at a micro and macro scale, in order to extract surplus value from living human subjects. This analysis is tested and further developed by drawing on a programme of empirical and theoretical research between 2012 and 2017, concerning patterns of migration and settlement, labour markets, state policy and implementation, the media, and activism.

The paper focuses on Britain in particular. This goes against the grain of the general turn toward a transnational frame in many studies of migration and bordering practices, but has value given the persistent national organisation of capital, and the continuing significance of national divisions and connected racial boundaries in governing migration and migrants’ rights. This has added importance in the context of Brexit, and the wider international turn toward protectionism and unilateralism supported by populist movements. Yet the British economy remains heavily reliant on international investments and service export of services, and key sectors are structurally dependant on migrant labour. Through an analysis of this case, theoretical insights are developed that have international relevance. The paper concludes by proposing alternative, counter-hegemonic understandings of the relationship between borders, migration and class that are informed by grassroots movements and foreground solidarity.

Constructing “Groupness” among Highly-Skilled International Migrants. An Analysis of Symbolic Boundary-Making in a Berlin City Magazine

Sören Carlson

Europa-Universität Flensburg, Germany

As a result of general globalization and transnationalization processes, but also in reaction to specifically European conditions (e.g. freedom of movement), we can observe new forms of labour migration and transnational mobility within Europe. These movements increasingly stem from relatively young and highly-skilled people and are often of a less permanent and, supposedly, more individualized character compared to more traditional forms of migration in Europe. This raises the question of how far these migrants can actually be considered as a social group with shared forms of belonging and identification. Furthermore, it begs the question of whether their belonging is still based on national or ethnic criteria or whether it is possibly related to different ways of constructing “groupness”. The paper addresses these questions by drawing theoretically on the concept of symbolic boundaries, as elaborated by Michèle Lamont and others, since such boundaries are a necessary “ingredient” for group formation. The empirical base of the analysis is a qualitative content analysis of editorial columns in a monthly, English-speaking Berlin city magazine, covering the years 2017 and 2018, which is predominantly geared towards an audience of highly-skilled people from abroad who moved, temporarily or permanently, to Berlin. By examining the ways in which symbolic boundaries are constructed within these columns when relating to as well as interpreting the migrants’ experiences of living within this city (e.g. by distancing oneself from the “local” population), the paper can show that there are indeed indications for an emerging form of group identity and belonging which supersedes traditional national affiliations.

Protecting Non-Resident Citizens: The Changing Role of Church and State

Breda Gray

University of Limerick, Ireland

Scholarly work on diaspora engagement and transnational social protection, while increasingly common, generally treats these as emergent forms of secular statecraft. The historical and continued imbrication of secular statecraft with religious discourses, practices and knowledges has not been part of the conversation. In this paper I address this oversight by calling attention to the historical and contemporary interweavings of church and state ideas, authorities, and techniques of government in simultaneously forging transnational conceptions of social citizenship, extending social protection and fostering ethnically and religiously-identified subject-citizens. I demonstrate the need to move beyond framing origin-state diaspora engagement as solely a project of secular statecraft by bringing to light some of the ways in which the Catholic church (an example of only one religious institution) in the case study contexts of Italy, the Philippines and Mexico have pioneered migrant social protection in partnership with, in parallel, and in contestation with origin states. While church rationalities of protecting human dignity and preserving family life put it in conflict with origin and receiving state migration policies, church techniques of migration government through social protection also support sending state diaspora relations and social protection policies. Alongside the scholarly attention currently being paid to the extensification and intensification of origin state protection measures, I point in this paper to the continued significance of church actors in the social protection of non-resident citizens.

“Vulnerability” as Limitation for Political Citizenship

Mervi Leppäkorpi

University of Helsinki, Finland

Migrants in irregular status have to negotiate their place within the society through “acts of citizenship” (Isin 2002). Those acts break the silence around the people. Political citizenship is negotiated through challenging the exclusion. In northern Europe theses negotiations are framed through the failed international protection and/or workers' rights.

Civil society provides support for these migrants through services and by demanding their rights. The understanding of the irregularity is constructed in encounters between those who seek and those who offer help. Consequently, vulnerability of these migrants dominate in representations. It is used as an argument and political tool in advocacy work. There have been intentions to redefine the vulnerability as a concept, that would take a step from victimizing, descriptive categories towards a shared human condition. This should promote more inclusive practices (Fineman 2008), but fails to target the marginalization as a consequence of juridical-administrative processes.

I argue, that the use of “vulnerability” as an apolitical concept in advocacy limits the possibilities of migrants in irregular situations for being political. Vulnerability argument construct a “genuine undocumented migrant" - the deserving victim - as an opposite to the undeserving (economic) migrant. This difficults those in irregular situation to defend demands without positioning themselves within the vulnerability discourse.

This paper is based on my empirical PhD research in Hamburg, Stockholm and Helsinki between 2014 and 2016.

Albertson Fineman, Martha (2008). The vulnerable subject: Anchoring equality in the human condition.Yale Journal of Law and Feminism 20(1), 1-24.

Isin, Engin F. (2002). Being political: Genealogies of citizenship. University of Minnesota Press.

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