Socio-Legal Perspectives on Borders

4th CeMig Migration Research Lab in cooperation with the Department of Ethics, Law and Politics of the Max-Planck-Institute for the Study of Ethnic and Religious Diversity (MPI-MMG)

Date: 22 January 2021, 09:00 - 13:00 CET
Venue: Online via Zoom


This workshop in cooperation with the Department of Ethics, Law and Politics of the Max-Planck-Institute for the Study of Ethnic and Religious Diversity (MPI-MMG) is designed to initiate interdisciplinary exchange about legal, socio-legal and ethnographic perspectives on migration and borders.

Based on the presentation of ongoing research projects theoretical and methodological questions of migration and refugee regimes, their humanitarization and securitization as well as border control and bordering practices are discussed.

The workshop is primarily aimed at empirically researching migration scholars from social and cultural anthropology, political scientists, sociology, law or related disciplines.


Introduction: Legal-Anthropological Perspectives on Migration and Borders
Sabine Hess (University of Göttingen)

Governing Europe Through Agencies: Agencification, Accountability, Transparency - The Case of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency Frontex
Bernd Kasparek (University of Göttingen)

Abstract follows soon!

Reluctant Border Agents: The Contested Role of Transportation Workers in Refugee Mobility Governance in Turkey
Mert Peksen (City University of New York)

This talk is examining the enlistment of transportation workers in bordering of internal mobilities of refugees in Turkey. In order to travel domestically, all refugees are required to obtain a travel permit by local immigration administration and transportation workers are legally obliged to check such travel permits before providing intercity transportation services. Based on ethnographic field research in Turkey and drawing on theoretical debates regarding everyday bordering, discretion and compliance, and the role of citizens in borderwork, control and surveillance, I explore the ways in which transportation workers experience, negotiate, and contest their assigned border agent role in the expanding border regime.

Is It Really Worth the Work? How Aid Organizations Produce Precarity in the Workplace, The Case of Refugee Volunteers in Jordan
Patricia Ward (Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity)

States produce uncertainty and insecurity among their non-citizens through policies and everyday practices that place groups in “in-between” legal statuses. Scholarship has shown how non-state actors, like employers in the labor market, can subsequently coerce non- citizens in particular ways in the workplace because of this ambiguous legal positioning. This paper, however, brings attention to how these non-state actors, in this case, employers in the transnational humanitarian aid sector, produce another layer of status ambiguity that contributes to the uncertainty and insecurity that refugees, as non-citizens, experience both in and outside of the workplace. Drawing upon fieldwork from Jordan, I show how aid employers’ volunteer programs obfuscate the status of their refugee affiliates: between a worker, on one hand, and a beneficiary on the other. Aid employers describe these programs as promoting refugees’ employability, and eventual inclusion into the labor market amidst stringent economic conditions. Yet, they simultaneously frame refugees’ labor in these volunteer positions as a form of aid. These competing discourses matter because they produce uncertainty among these refugee volunteers in terms of their roles, relationships and rights within the aid sector as a result. Drawing upon Lorey’s discussion of precarity as a relational process of othering, I argue that, in order to secure their own roles in a protracted humanitarian context, aid employers strategically insecure others: They produce refugees as worker-beneficiaries through everyday practices that blur the lines between what constitutes work and aid. This in-between status not only contributes to precarity among refugee volunteers in turn, but also rearticulates and delineates refugees as non-citizens within the state as well.