Vertical interventions?

The local politics of crimmigration control in intra -Schengen borderlands

In the context of unprecedented uncertainty over the future of intra-Schengen border control, it is surprising to note that the literature has thus far paid little attention to Europe’s internal border regions (as opposed to its external frontiers), nor to the forms of contestation intra-Schengen borders elicit on the local level. This PhD project addresses these gaps, by exploring and historicizing the local politics of migration and border management along the German-Austrian (Freilassing-Salzburg) and German-Polish (Görlitz-Zgorzelec) borders. More specifically, it intends to shed light on the processes through which diverse and often ambiguous local border realities are translated into official representations of the border in the political realm.

Duration2017 - 2021
ResearcherNeske Baerwaldt
Main projectGetting to the Core of Crimmigration
Main organisationVan Vollenhoven Institute, Leiden University

Research Question

How do specific border representations become dominant, how do they shift and mutate over time, and how do these evolving representations relate to the diversity and complexity of what takes place in border regions?

Project Description

Local border areas offer a particularly valuable lens through which to examine border and migration politics, because at the local level, dominant narratives meet diverse realities that challenge homogeneous representations. Border regions are at once the loci of top-down interventions in the name of humanitarianism and security, and the spaces that spur contestation within (local) state-agencies, non-state organizations, and diverse communities – all of whom have a stake in how the border is understood and dealt with.

Deploying a variety of research methods – combining in-depth ethnographic fieldwork, (life-history) interviews, city council debate analysis (for the period 1985-2017), media analysis, and survey data –  this research explores questions designed to interrogate pre-conceived border narratives (e.g., ‘refugees welcome’; ‘the border is sealed’). How is the border represented by whom, and what interventions do these diverse representations call for? How do people living in border regions experience evolving border regimes, and what role do organized communities assert in shaping and challenging how the border is understood and dealt with? Who is constituted as the object of control, and how does this evolving "Other" change over time? What specific alliances emerge that cross institutional  and state boundaries, and what do these alliances reveal about who speaks in the name of the local?

By exploring these questions and others, this project intends to shed light, not only on the ways in which crime control and migration management seem increasingly entwined (crimmigration), but also on how a particular vision of the relationship between crime, migration, and borders becomes dominant – despite and through opposition.

Refugees welcome graffiti and refugee boat in Berlin