Universität KonstanzExzellenzcluster „Kulturelle Grundlagen von Integration“

Die Regierung von Migration in urbanen Asylregimen

Philipp Schäfer


The reception and accommodation of people seeking asylum in Europe has become a key political, socio-cultural and economic challenge for the European Union and its Member States. In my analysis, I focus on the organization of forced migration in two European cities. What actors are taking part in local negotiation processes? How do they position themselves against what normative backgrounds? How do they interact and what individual or collective strategies do they use? What configurations of power and legitimacy characterize local attempts to govern migration? How do the asylum-seeking persons create room for themselves to manoeuvre? Finally, how did the experience of the 2015 “refugee-crisis” affect local attempts to govern forced migration?

My research project addresses a major tension: On the one hand, national as well as regional asylum and residency regulations in the Member States of the European Union are increasingly Europeanized. On the other hand, current debates and conflicts surrounding the reception of asylum-seeking persons in Europe demonstrate the central importance of the local setting. The East-German city of Leipzig and the French metropolitan area of Lyon, two typical European second cities, serve as entry points from which I reconstruct how national, European and global actors, institutions and processes determine the reception and accommodation of asylum-seeking persons in urban localities. What differences in the discursive and practical “ordering” of forced migration can be observed and what are their causes?

My research aims at formulating an empirically grounded theory of urban asylum regimes. The data underlying this theory will be collected during several months of ethnographic field trips in both cities, through (expert) interviews and document analyses. I will analyse the empirical material using methods of reconstructive social research. My PhD project aims to contribute to the sociological foundation of a research field dominated by political science research – the governing of forced migration – by combining the migration regime perspective and field theoretical approaches. In doing so, I will be able to focus on both the questions of the institutionalisation of a political crisis scenario as well as on actors and their difference-based interactions. This in turn enables me to go beyond fixed structure-based or solely agency-centred perspectives on migration and social transformation processes.

The dissertation project is part of the PhD program “Europe in the globalized world”. It is funded by the Center of Excellence “Cultural Foundations of Social Integration” and the Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes.