Research Area 1

Mobilities and Migration Regimes in Eastern Europe

Helena Flam and Judith Miggelbrink

The transformation of Eastern Europe has resulted in high levels of subnational territorial inequality. Especially rural and old industrialised areas are increasingly disconnected from globalised economic and societal trends, while capital regions have become integral parts of the international division of labour (Smith/Timár, 2010). These trends have impacted mobility. Whereas in general the mobility of goods, services and capital has been encouraged, mobility of people is highly selective and subject to various forms of regulation, particularly through border regimes.

While border regimes produce ‘immobilisation effects’, they also promote strategies of subverting borders, exploiting differences in demand and supply and prices and taxes between neighbouring states. A broad variety of legal and illegal cross-border practices emerge, such as small-scale trade and smuggling, seasonal work, shopping for medical care, prostitution, human trafficking, etc. Some of these practices imply emigration from Eastern Europe, while others impact on the number of commuters, tourists and short-term residents. Mobility and migration have become issues in the lives of many people, provoking research on their effects on identity, social commitment and social, political and demographic subjectivities, on the one hand; and on national and transnational political units and strategies, on the other.
All this sums up to a rather complex pattern of mobility, mobile and immobile groups as well as forms of control and flows, calling for a broad approach to mobility that takes into account its intersecting social, economic, cultural, political and infrastructural components. Analytically, the research employs the ‘mobilities turn’ (Urry 2007), which emphasises the reciprocal constitution of mobilities and societal transformations as well as the relationship between mobility, socio-spatial inequality and power (Cresswell 2010). Five interdependent mobilities are distinguished here: corporeal travel of people, physical movements of objects, imaginative travel, virtual travel and communicative travel.
The research will also tackle methodological issues. Research on migration and mobility lacks reliable data and faces methodological constraints, especially with regard to increasingly circular and transnational forms of mobility. Therefore, all projects will contribute to new and mobile methods of data collection and methodological reflections, exploring the following fields:

Neocolonial mobilities and the construction of regional images (Helena Flam, Tim Leibert, Kristine Beurskens):
What specific images of Eastern Europe do mobile groups coming from the ‘outside’ enact and how are they related to a variety of discourses (media, economy, gender/sexuality)? Are images part of ‘neo-colonial’ economic and political positioning and strategies? What role do emotional dimensions play in such relations? How are they challenged and combatted/deconstructed by alternative ideas?

Prostitution and mobilities (Helena Flam, Dietlind Hüchtker):
How do discourses on ‘prostitution’ influence the relations within the EU, and how does cooperation develop? How are spatial meanings of politics as well as the gender and body aspects of prostitution intertwined with different aspects of migration and mobility?

Moorings and mobilities: Practices of im/mobility and youth biographies in rural peripheries (Kathrin Hörschelmann, Tim Leibert, Judith Miggelbrink):
How do young people perform mobility and mooring in their everyday and biographical practices? How do young people negotiate changes in place through performative practices that may be the result of other global-local mobilities and their uneven construction? How do they participate in shaping and transforming places?

Flexible infrastructures of mobility (Helena Flam, Judith Miggelbrink, Wladimir Sgibnev):
How do individuals adjust to infrastructural conditions that hinder the realization of their plans? How do they shape new infrastructures? How do mobility entrepreneurs create demand or reply to it? How does the flexibility/stability spectre with regard to infrastructures of mobility relate to other polarities? Which inequalities do they induce, foster or alleviate? What is the role of the mode of ownership (privately/publicly/state-run infrastructures) for the unfolding mobility patterns?

Regimes of justice and regimes of im/mobility (Tim Leibert, Helena Flam):
How have Roma people been treated during socialist times and from 1990 onwards regarding im/mobility? How has Roma migration challenged European free movement policies? In what ways have discourses on Roma migration shaped a negative perception of Eastern Europe as source of »problematic« migration? How can recent im/mobility patterns be mapped, paying attention to their consequences and causes – including (gendered) mobility barriers and/or expectations of im/mobility within the Roma communities?

Im/Mobilities and region building: What role do borders play in the formation of global areas? (Helena Flam, Steffi Marung, Judith Miggelbrink, Kristine Beurskens):
How do different actors deal with the implementation and effects of the overlapping claims of territorial bordering processes? How do they respond to border regimes and the restrictions they place on mobilities in terms of their selectivities and conjunctive elements towards a common area of Eastern Europe? What strategic ideas do different kinds of actors share with regard to selective im/mobilities in/to/from that area? In what ways do border regimes transform (individual, family) conceptions of life and therein inscribed ideas of mobile practices?