Universiteit Leiden

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PhD project

Vertical interventions? The local politics of migration management and policing in intra-Schengen borderlands

What is the role of local authorities and communities in shaping how inter-Schengen borders are understood and dealt with?

2017 - 2021
Neske Baerwaldt

Oxford Centre for Criminology (Faculty of Law)

Photo: iStock.com/hanohiki

Local border areas offer a particularly valuable lens through which to examine the processes associated with crimmigration because at the local level, dominant narratives meet diverse realities that challenge homogeneous representations. Border zones are at once the loci of national interventions in the name of humanitarianism and security, and the spaces that spur resistance within state-agencies, non-state organizations, and communities, all of whom have a stake in how the border is understood and dealt with.

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 borders (as opposed to its external frontiers), nor to the forms of resistance border practices elicit. This PhD project addresses these gaps, by examining the local politics of migration management and policing along the German-Austrian border.

Deploying a multi-method approach – combining in-depth ethnographic fieldwork, (life-history) interviews, policy analysis, media analysis, and survey data – the research explores questions designed to interrogate pre-conceived border narratives (e.g. ‘refugees welcome’; ‘wir schaffen das’; ‘the border is “sealed”’). How is the border problematized by whom, and what interventions do these diverse problematizations call for? How does a specific conception of the border become dominant on the national level, and how is it struggled over? What role do legislative frameworks play, not only as instruments that structure practices, but also as stakes in struggles over how migration ought to be dealt with? How do local residents experience evolving border regimes, and what role do organized communities assert in shaping and challenging how the border is understood and dealt with? How does community activism tie in with tensions within municipalities, national governments and the EU? What specific alliances emerge that cross institutional and state boundaries, and what do these alliances reveal about who gets to speak in the name of the local?

By interrogating crimmigration politics from the viewpoint of Europe’s internal border regions, this PhD intends to shed light not only on the processes through which crime control and migration management seem increasingly entwined, but also on how a particular social and political order is constituted – despite and through opposition.       

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