International Research Cluster 2023: Conflict-Induced Displacement and Socio-Economic Resilience: Learning From Neglected Conflicts in Cameroon and Myanmar (2023-ongoing)
There are an estimated 281 million migrants worldwide, with 89.5 million being forcibly displaced. Political and humanitarian measures to address forced migration often neglect the socio-economic aspects of displacement. Understanding migrants' socio-economic situations is essential to managing forced migration and achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals. At the heart of this cluster are two violent conflicts - the Anglophone conflict in Cameroon and the military coup in Myanmar - which have resulted in significant displacement but have received limited attention in international public debates. By engaging with these conflicts and the economic role of displaced persons, our cluster will help to identify: a) the humanitarian aid required to address the most basic needs of displaced persons; b) possible measures to be taken by national governments and the international community to address the root causes of the conflicts in order to avoid further displacement and human suffering; and c) the key role of displaced persons in taking charge of their own futures and contributing economically to their host and home countries.
International Research Unit 'The Production and Reproduction of Social Inequalities: Global Contexts and Concepts of Labour Exploitation' (2023-ongoing)
Since 2020 I am the speaker and coordinator of the international research unit 'The Production and Reproduction of Social Inequalities', funded by the Volkswagen Foundation. The research unit addresses the overarching question of why attempts aimed at increasing equality often have contributed to generating more durable inequalities. As a way of addressing this general question, the research unit focuses on concepts and actors and their roles in producing and reproducing social inequalities in the context of colonial and postcolonial labor systems and regimes of mobility in the 'Global South'. In this study, inequalities are understood as relational and historically embedded and as comprising several dimensions, including social, economic, and epistemic inequality. More specifically, the research unit focuses on selected concepts that are locally grounded and describe forms of social inequalities linked to different types of labor exploitation, namely 'native labor', 'new slavery', 'human trafficking', and 'cheap/abundant labor'. The members of the research unit investigate - both from a historical and contemporary perspective - how these concepts circulated on a global scale, and were negotiated, translated, and adapted by institutional and individual actors with the aim of challenging social inequalities, while eventually contributing to the production of those same, or new, inequalities. The research unit intends to reconcile debates on conceptual history, labor history, and inequality and combines perspectives from both South and North. Ultimately, it aims to interpret global labor regimes and to draw lessons from experiences for societies in both the 'Global South' as well as the 'Global North'.
Special Project: Communication during and after Covid-19: (re)producing social inequalities and/or opportunities among African migrants in the United Arab Emirates and China (2021-2023)
This project relates closely to the Research Unit studying the production and reproduction of social inequalities, but approaches the subject from the angle of communication during and after COVID-19. It involves three members of the research unit, who share an interest in African migrants and their exposure to the social, political, and economic ramifications of the pandemic. The project strengthens our discussions on both the production and reproduction of social inequalities and the emergence of new opportunities by considering the vital role of communication in times of crisis and transition. The project addresses the following questions: How does the COVID-19 pandemic affect the production and reproduction of social inequalities as well as the emergence of opportunities for especially vulnerable migrants? And which role does communication play in this context? These questions are studied in relation to the experiences of African migrants in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and in China. In addition to showing the pandemic's differential socio-economic impact on different populations in society, the findings will reveal how solidarity at the grassroots level underlies the successful mitigation of this crisis in at-risk communities.
Research Project 'Migration, Intersectionality and Institutional Interaction: African Migrants' Experiences in the United Arab Emirates' (2022-ongoing)
This project is part of the DFG Research Unit 5183 'Transborder Mobility and Institutional Dynamics'. It examines the interplay between international mobility and institutional dynamics in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). It pursues an intersectional approach and aims to understand how migrants and institutional actors are positioned differently, how their interaction is shaped by different vectors of inequality, and how they make use of their positionalities. The project focuses on institutions of migrant self-organisation and considers the kafala/sponsorship system - widespread in the Arab Gulf region - not only in terms of its restrictive dimensions but also in terms of how migrants productively incorporate it into their strategies. The project focuses on migrants from Africa (specifically from Ethiopia and Cameroon), a group that has received little attention in previous research on the Arab Gulf states. Methodologically, it integrates anthropological and sociological approaches and uses a mixed methods design, which includes, among other things, auto-ethnography as a central method for researching intersectionality.