Border Regimes, Racialization Processes and Resistance in Germany: An Ethnographic Study of Protest and Solidarity

Bhimji, Fazila orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-7234-852X (2020) Border Regimes, Racialization Processes and Resistance in Germany: An Ethnographic Study of Protest and Solidarity. Palgrave McMillan. ISBN 978-3-030-49319-6

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This book has several aims. Based on empirical data and ethnographic methodology, I first demonstrate the ways in which refugee activism and solidarity efforts go beyond citizenship such that their activism includes fights against racialisation of refugees, and state power. The book discusses the asylum policies and the German state’s practices which exclude, ostra- cise and limit membership of refugees in the nation-state. In this respect, the policies which racialise refugees and the related institutional violence which refugees are compelled to live with are discussed in detail and the subsequent chapters demonstrate how refugee initiatives fight such forms of state power and racial ostracisms.

The book’s second aim is to demonstrate that activism and solidarity work can take on many forms. The book demonstrates the diverse politics and strategies which different activist groups employ in order to expose and overcome asylum policies which serve to govern the racialised Other through migration controls (Gutiérrez Rodríguez 2018). To this end, fol- lowing a brief discussion of the refugee tent protests in Berlin, this study provides an analysis of three forms of activism (which continued following the mobilisation): solidarity activism, intersectional feminist activism, in which women advocate for women refugees suffering from multiple forms of marginalisation, and refugee self-organised media activism. In particu- lar, the book examines the different strategies employed by three different initiatives, Schlafplatzorga, International Women’s Space, and Wearebornfree Empowerment Radio, and describes and critiques the dif- fering strategies they employ to challenge asylum policies and racist ide- ologies. The book shows that political activism does not cease with street protests, as has been demonstrated in the case of social media in recent times. It thus demonstrates how fights against border regimes, racialisa- tion of refugees, colonialism, capitalism, and neocolonialism can occur in diverse ways, such as through the media, through organising conferences, cooking and eating together, seeking refuge in Berlin, and leaving the ‘Lager’ (segregated mass refugee accommodations) when in dire circumstances, offering one’s room to homeless refugees threatened by deportation, and by finding funds to carry the activism efforts forward.

The third aim of this book goes beyond a description of unequal structure and agency and examines the interplay of the humanitarian and the political, questions of reciprocity, and representational tropes of refugees within these initiatives. Even though the groups which I discuss in this book were born out of radical left politics in Berlin and were engaged in
anti-racist struggles, humanitarian values and politics came to interact in the initiatives such that they posed ethical dilemmas even for the participants. This study shows how some of these solidarity actions affected slippages between humanitarian and political action. Thus, this empirical research shows how, because of humanitarian interventions, solidarity activism and feminist and intersectional activisms did not always lead to equality, between refugees and solidarity works; and for the members of the groups it became challenging to participate in solidarity work in pre-figurative ways. The study demonstrates the differences between larger humanitarian systems (Fassin 2012; Ticktin 2011; Agier 2011), whichtend to become part of border regimes, and smaller initiatives that remain local and independent (Fekete 2016).

Finally, the book aims to draw attention to refugee activism and refugees from countries other than Syria. Since the so-called refugee crisis of 2015, there has been much scholarly and media attention focused on refugees arriving from Syria. This book demonstrates some of the experiences,struggles, and activism of the ‘less deserving refugees’ and perpetually racialised people who came from Sub-Saharan Africa, Pakistan, and Afghanistan to Germany prior to 2015, and who continue to arrive to this date, assuming they survive their treacherous journey.

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