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FU-BEST 34: Migration: Dynamics and Controversies in Europe and Berlin

InstructorDuygu Gürsel
Credit Points5 ECTS / 3 U.S. credits

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The European Union consists of pluralist and secular nation-states. This is official policy up to the highest levels of the EU-bureaucracy, in which “any discrimination based on any ground such as sex, race, color, ethnic or social origin, genetic features, language, religion or belief, political or any other opinion, membership of a national minority, property, birth, disability, age, or sexual orientation shall be prohibited.” Although this is the norm, in the factual political as well as every-day power-relations between migrants and citizens, diverse forms of discrimination are steadily reproduced.

In this course, we will encounter some of these differences between the normative and the factual as we pursue a series of analytical and learning objectives. We will focus on the often problematic and conflictual triangle of migration, ethnicity, and religion and ground our exploration of relevant theory in a discussion of empirical case-studies on the wider European as well as on the local Berlin levels. We will especially examine more closely the often highly emotionalized and mostly too simplistic public debates, which take place mostly around the categories of ethnicity and religion. Thereby we will also look at diverse forms of multimedia-based representations of the highly complex and multidimensional dynamics involved in migration processes, inasmuch as people do not come only as ethicized or religionized subjects. They come also as gendered and gendering persons. They come with their professions, their political viewpoints, their personal tastes, ethics and aesthetics, subcultures and complex worldviews – in other words, they come as individual persons, like anybody else. As a result, they actively contribute to the spatial, cultural, and social dynamics of migration, as well as to the controversies arising around them.

Based on constructivist approaches drawn from cultural and social anthropology, we will establish the basics of transnational migration theory, focusing especially on the fields of critical migration and mobility research, postcolonial studies, globalization theory, the anthropology of the state, of religion and of multimedia representation. We will question different forms of mobility, while being aware of their historical contexts in the rise of the (European) nation-state, and will think about the consequences of the contemporary politics of fear and identity, played out along the lines of the production and reproduction of fixed cultural boundaries, which thereby foster xenophobic worldviews. In the case of populist discourse, we thus encounter political manifestations that directly threaten the ideals of the European Union. A final objective of the course will be to explore ways to think beyond the conventional framings of identity.