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Thinking beyond 'crisis'? Provincialising fractured European politics of migration

Authors: Eszter Kovacs*, Department of Geography, University of Cambridge, Tatiana A Thieme, University of College London, Kavita Ramakrishnan, University of East Anglia
Topics: Europe, Migration, Legal Geography
Keywords: refugees; geopolitics; Europe; post-socialism
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Recent literature on post-2015 European refugee 'crisis' covers important ground: first, it calls out the moralistic and fetishized classifications of the “legitimate” refugee fleeing conflict versus the “illegitimate” economic migrant (Stoler 2016; Crawley et al 2018). Second, it argues that the crisis narrative legitimises an excessive focus on present emergencies (Ticktin 2016), thereby de-historicising and de-politicising wider contexts, where the persistent legacies of (post)colonial power relations continue to play a significant role in both the treatment of migrants and in their stereotypical representation (Tošić & Lems 2019). This literature has tended to position European institutions and vantages in singular terms, in relation to migrants and countries outside of the EU. This paper builds on these insights and seeks to address the differential politics, histories and diverse contemporary reception of migrants within Europe. We argue that persistent geopolitical and economic inequalities within Europe, most notably between an east-west/post-socialist-triumphally-neoliberal axis, have been mobilised to question the legitimacy and effectiveness of European formal institutions and processes. Formal Eastern European politics have done so through contesting the responsibilities of states to refugees in ways that highlight differential colonial legacies and histories, as well as normative claims around the state and their own 20th century grievances and experience of ‘refugeehood’. We connect and ground the use of refugees as a ‘spark’ issue to broader contestations around delimiting the scope and form of EU institutions, governance, and belonging, which connects to crises in ‘liberal democracy’ throughout Europe and divergent interpretations of who 'counts' as European today.

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