By Lina Droste
„Without a consistent and explicit exploration of the systemic factors that are institutionalized into the daily rhythm of oppressed and privileged peoples, social scientists reflect and become part of that system that is built upon inequity and injustice.“ (Patel 2016: 24)
In this photo project I want to contribute to a shift of perspectives on migration in educational science proposed by Gloria Ladson-Billings: away from researching on „achievement gaps“ to an analysis of „debts“.
„A debt is something that is owed; a gap can simply exist. [...] A gap can be seen to be merely occurring and rectifiable with some kind of filler, but not necessitating a shift in the core conditions that created the gap.“ (ibid.: 17)
This shift allows to raise questions of equity: Which excluding and including structures exist? Who benefits from them? Who is excluded? What are the mechanisms of exclusion? And finally: Who is recognized more human than others? Instead of pathologizing particular migratory populations and thus essentializing human conditions, criticism of the core conditions raising inequalities arise. (ibid.: 41)
The language of law claims to be objective and neutral, which is a typical colonial move to claim innocence that tries to hide ongoing protected privilege (ibid.). In this series of photographs I want to challenge the innocence of the institution of the nation state Germany. My aim is to show how the system of nation states, and connected to it the institutions of citizenship and special „foreigner“1-laws, produce and reproduce racism.
It is clear that „moral, sociopolitical, and historical debts [...] must be viewed“ (ibid.: 17) in a system of laws that basically build up on a racist justifications in a colonial pathway in that „all [...] measures aimed to prevent people of mixed ancestry legally becoming Germans, which would have both given them the right to acquire property in the colonies and to settle in Germany. Even more important were political rights like voting, which would have turned them from passive objects of German politics into active participants in the decision-making process.“ (El-Tayeb 1999: 159) Building up on a history in which imperial powers were inventing racist constructions in the name of enlightenment to justify colonial violence and exploitation, resulting citizenship is strongly connected with racism. As earlier biologist definitions of 'Germanness' were have been paramount, nowadays culture has been essentialized and is dominating the racist discourse. (Conrad 2013: 544). In this work I will illustrate a line between 'nationals' and the 'nation's others'. Both categories are not static since national, ethnic, cultural and territorial exclusions happen simultaneously and form a wide range of racism. When talking of 'nationals' I mostly refer to people enjoying the privileges of having the rights of a German citizen. The 'nation's others' should name the constructed groups of people that are, based on the previously named mechanisms of exclusion, excluded from several basic rights as I will show in my photo project. This does not only have to be in the racist frame of historically legalized laws of residence and national exclusion, but can also mean an exclusion based on racialized attribution independent from holding the German citizenship.
I have been asking myself how I could best point out the irrationality of the legalized differentiation of human in 'foreigners' and 'nationals'2 and the structural refusal of rights to the former. Finally I chose to capture different normalities of my life which are based on my personal status and privileges as a white German citizen. I chose to call my privileges pictured in my photographs provocatively 'normalities of a potato's life'3. A potato refers to white people with German citizenship.
Patel states that „research is a project and product of culture, sociopolitics, and material conditions. It does not exist outside of trajectories of thought and action, but firmly within. This perspective, though, stands in direct opposition to science, as commonly and historically understood in Westernized contexts, as a practice of tried and true methods that can only be undertaken by specially trained (social) scientists, and because of that special training, able to operate from and measure its worth in terms of objectivity and neutrality.“ (Patel 2016: 49) Patel describes research as relational to contexts, and so is my photo project. As a white woman with German citizenship I have only marginally been facing state repression against the 'nation's others' personally, and if I did, then I had a choice before. If you compare the normalities of my life to the realities of those by German law defined as 'foreigners', these normalities turn out to be an absurd privilege. By opposing 'the normality of a potato' with the exclusionary legal articles for 'foreigners' I aim to highlight the structural power and injustice of national exclusion.
In the case of Germany I set my focus on the Aufenthaltsgesetz (Act on the Residence), Asylgesetz (Asylum Act) and Asylbewerberleistungsgesetz (Asylum-seekers Benefits Act) which are laws constituting the legal frame for the administrative treatment of German 'nation's others', and in the following cases more specifically - in legal terms - the 'third country nationals', who are not holding a European citizenship.
My choice of pictures and articles derive from my activism in anti-racist contexts and my former practice a legal adviser for people requesting asylum in Germany. Besides these experiences that gave me ideas for this project, I sat down with a friend who is facing many of these laws in his daily life and elaborated with me the segments of reality I would photograph. Many comparisons I draw between the pictures and articles will seem random to one or the other. Actually they are reflections on my experience of my own status and connected to prospects of my life and differ for many other German citizens. Still they are not individual, as there is a powerful racist structure placing bodies, also mine, in subjective status in society.
1 I set the term 'foreigner' in inverted commas to point out that this category of people is a construction that German law
uses to define all people not holding the German citizenship.
2 This presentation of 'foreigners' and 'nationals' is a reduced definition, since the German law defines many subgroups of 'foreigners' being differently privileged to one another. Still, it remains a clear legal border between the 'nationals'('nation's belonging') and the 'nation's others' ('foreigners'), constituting a big gap of access to social, economical, territorial and political resources between the constructed groups.
3 Practices of the privileged often remain the norm and are thus invisible. (Patel 2016: 24) This term potato serves as a counter-pole to the many possibilities of naming the 'nation's others'.
Normality of a potato: „Studies finished, no constricting working contract yet, some free months without any bondages? Let's see new places and go abroad!“
„6.1. Erteilung von Schengen-Visa. 220.127.116.11 Die Feststellung der Rückkehrabsicht ist [...] zentrale Erteilungsvoraussetzung [für Visa]. Kapitel V der Gemeinsamen Konsularischen Instruktion bekräftigt, dass bei der Bearbeitung von Visumanträgen auch das Ziel der Bekämpfung der illegalen Einreise als ein wesentlicher Punkt zu berücksichtigen ist. Das Vorliegen der Rückkehrabsicht des Antragstellers nach Beendigung des Aufenthaltszwecks ist als tatbestandliche Einreisevoraussetzung in jedem Einzelfall festzustellen. Hinweise auf die fehlende Rückkehrabsicht ergeben sich aus tatsächlichen Indizien in der Person des Antragstellers, aufgrund derer auf eine mangelnde „Verwurzelung“ des Ausländers im Herkunftsstaat geschlossen werden kann. Kann die Rückkehrbereitschaft nicht festgestellt werden [...], so ist das Visum mangels Erfüllung der Erteilungsvoraussetzungen [...] zu versagen.“ (18.104.22.168 Allgemeine Verwaltungsvorschrift zum AufenthG)
Many 'third country citizens' have to apply for a Schengen-Visa in order to legally enter Germany - among these citizens from all former German colonies (Gemeinsame Konsularische Instruktion 2005: 24-25). The development of passports is strongly entangled with the building of nation states and the European imperialism and its attempt to maintain power by administering and ruling indigenous people in the colonies (Barlag & Scheid 2016: 20-22). As El- Tayeb states: „the conjuncture of „race“ and „blood“ therefore, has proven resistant to political changes. Germany, with its national identity that through almost the whole of the twentieth century and four political systems has been explicitly based on „blood“, is a case in point.“ (El-Tayeb 1999: 149) Building on these colonial structures, German embassies have still the mission to 'fight illegal entry' and therefore demand the visa-applicants to prove their 'intention to return' to their country of origin. In this frame the German embassy expects ongoing working contracts, proof of land holding, family ties and commitments, etc. in order to 'prove' the intention to return. (Auswärtiges Amt)
A German passport is in comparison one of the strongest passports with most freedom of movement worldwide. German citizens either don't need a Visa or will get it - in most cases - quite easily without any assumption of illegal entry or unwillingness to return. (Barlag & Scheid 2016: 20-22)
Furthermore Patel is writing about research relationships and settler colonialism that „a researcher who is the outsider in such research relationships is engaged in his or her own construction of self, which may include aspects of being a savior, more expert, and more capable, but is undoubtedly just as dependent on the research relationship.“ (Patel 2016: p. 43) I would argue that you can see the same dependency in German colonial contexts by opposing the status of an AIESEC volunteer making „actions for change“ with the restrictive Visa-regime for citizens of former colonized territories. AIESEC offers e.g. the 'Global Entrepreneur' program that promises getting to know a new culture, developing new abilities and skills and finally making use of the boring university theory - and all this in only eight to twelve weeks. (AIESEC) The 'global entrepreneur' „profits from and is therefore dependent on the mythology of external expert as change agent“ (Patel 2016: 44).
Normality of a potato: „Damn - again minus! I will ask Sarah to borrow me some money.“
„16 Zu § 16 - Aufenthaltserlaubnis zum Zweck der Studienbewerbung, des Studiums, für Sprachschüler und für den Schulbesuch. 16.0.8 Erforderlich ist der Nachweis ausreichender Mittel zur Sicherung des Lebensunterhalts [...]. Ausreichende Mittel stehen dann zur Verfügung, wenn sie dem BaföG-Förderungshöchstsatz* [...] entsprechen.“
(16.0.8 Verwaltungsvorschriften zum AufenthG)
* aktueller monatlicher BaföG-Satz 735?
„22.214.171.124 Den Anforderungen genügt insbesondere [...] die Einzahlung einer Sicherheitsleistung auf ein Sperrkonto bei einem Geldinstitut, [...] von dem monatlich nur 1/12 des eingezahlten Betrages ausgezahlt werden darf“
(126.96.36.199 Verwaltungsvorschriften zum AufenthG)
Non-European students have to prove that they have enough money to finance themselves for one year in order to get a permit to stay in Germany for that amount of time. This is proved e.g. by a blocked bank account with an amount of 8.820 €, that is releasing only 735 € every month. It is based on the highest rate of BaföG, a state support that international students are excluded from. While also students with German citizenship often face poverty, non-European students are excluded categorically from any general state support. As this regulation is meeting the internationals who have to ask for a visa in order to enter Germany legally, which include e.g. citizens of all former German colonies (Gemeinsame Konsularische Instruktion 2005: 24-25). Thus getting access to education at a German university still follows the logic of racist exclusion, that El-Tayeb describes as a resistant principle, since the 'nation's others' have to fulfill extra criteria compared to the 'nations belonging'. (El-Tayeb 1999: 149)
„§ 16 Studium. [...] (3) Die Aufenthaltserlaubnis berechtigt zur Ausübung einer Beschäftigung, die insgesamt 120 Tage oder 240 halbe Tage im Jahr nicht überschreiten darf [...]. Dies gilt nicht während des Aufenthalts zu studienvorbereitenden Maßnahmen im ersten Jahr des Aufenthalts, ausgenommen in der Ferienzeit.“
(§ 16 Abs. 3 AufenthG)
Above the high sums of money that non-European students have to prove beforehand and being excluded from any financial state support, the German law creates a further exclusion by limiting their access to work: no right to work during preparatory language courses, no right to work during the first year of living in Germany and finally a limited amount of hours (120 days) throughout the year.
Normality of a potato: „I'll join you in the library later, I just still want to pass the administration to clarify my matriculation issue.“
„Abschiebungshaft. [...] (2) Ein Ausländer ist zur Vorbereitung der Ausweisung auf richterliche Anordnung in Haft zu nehmen, wenn über die Ausweisung nicht sofort entschieden werden kann und die Abschiebung ohne die Inhaftnahme wesentlich erschwert oder vereitelt würde (Vorbereitungshaft). Die Dauer der Vorbereitungshaft soll sechs Wochen nicht überschreiten. Im Falle der Ausweisung bedarf es für die Fortdauer der Haft bis zum Ablauf der angeordneten Haftdauer keiner erneuten richterlichen Anordnung.“
(§ 62 Abs. 2 AufenthG)
For this article on deportation arrest I had difficulties to take a photograph. Facing the
German administration on the level of legal national belonging means for many people their
deportation: the forced departure from German territory. This paragraph even sets the frame
for an arrest in order to facilitate the deportation of a person whose social status is not fitting
to the actual legal frame of those being eligible to stay in German territory - a huge
limitation of freedom only in order to execute administrative steps. Deportation arrest in
Germany is rooted in antisemitic policies in 1919. Although the number of 'foreigners'
being accused during the Münchener Räterepublik has been quite little, the public discourse
was focusing on the amount of Jewish people joining the uprising. In this frame the
ministries for inner and military affairs passed the „Bekanntmachungen über Aufenthalts-
und Zuzugsbeschränkungen“ in order to unobstructedly deport Jews. (Walter 1999)
Administration for a German citizen would never include deportation, not to mention deportation arrest in Germany. I was first taking a picture of a calendar with an appointment for a trail, to show that some people have a trail for a criminal case, meanwhile others sit in prison for the smooth administrative steps of the Ausländerbehörde. Another scene I photographed was the Studierendensekretariat of Bielefeld University to point out the different meanings that administration can mean. But in the end I could have taken a picture of a bicycle, a classroom, walking in wide fields, harvesting elder, hanging out with friends, sleeping calmly, going on a demonstration, calling people, ... thousands of things that you are excluded from when being imprisoned. I decided to keep the picture grey.
Normality of a potato: „In my first semester I missed home, I visited my family almost every second weekend.“
§ 4 Übergangsregelungen. [...] (13) Bis zum Inkrafttreten der Neuregelung des Familiennachzugs zu Personen, denen nach dem 17. März 2016 [...] [subsidiärer Schutz] erteilt worden ist, längstens jedoch bis zum 31. Juli 2018, wird der Familiennachzug zu diesen Personen nicht gewährt. Ab 1. August 2018 kann aus humanitären Gründen dem Ehegatten oder dem minderjährigen ledigen Kind eines Ausländers, dem eine Aufenthaltserlaubnis [...] [als subsidiär Geschütze*r] erteilt wurde, sowie den Eltern eines minderjährigen Ausländers, dem eine Aufenthaltserlaubnis [...] [als subsidiär Geschützter] erteilt wurde, eine Aufenthaltserlaubnis erteilt werden, bis die Anzahl der nach dieser Vorschrift erteilten Aufenthaltserlaubnisse die Höhe von monatlich 1000 erreicht hat.“
(§ 104 Abs. 13 AufenthG)
This paragraph has been implemented in the frame of "Asylpaket II" in February 2016 (BT Drucksache 18/7538) and extended in February 2018 (PM Deutscher Bundestag 2008). It forbids people having subsidiary protection in Germany to reunite with their family members staying outside of the European Union till end of July 2018. In actuality these policies are splitting up families for many years or even forever (e.g. if a child turns 18 years old and is thus no longer part of the 'core' family that is eligible to reunite). The limit of only 1000 reunifications per month in total for the time after the complete stop of reunifications is denying the 'nation's other' from their basic rights of a protected family life. (Deutsches Institut für Menschenrechte 2016: 8) Consequently people falling under this legal category are taken away the basic right of a protection of their family life by the German state, which is found in Art. 6 of the German constitution (Art. 6 GG). The "Asylpaket II" has been passed in during highly charged political discourse still continuing. In this discourse refugees are being used as objects of political campaigns. This is possible because the mechanisms of racist exclusion are still legitimized knowledge in a historically grown society of colonial injustice. (El-Tayeb 1999: 149)
Normality of a potato: „Which further language do I want to learn during my university studies? Yeah, maybe Spanish or French, they sound so nice and I can use them in so many parts of the world!“
„§ 9 Niederlassungserlaubnis. (1) Die Niederlassungserlaubnis ist ein unbefristeter Aufenthaltstitel. [...] (2) Einem Ausländer ist eine Niederlassungserlaubnis zu erteilen, wenn [...] 7. er über ausreichende Kenntnisse der deutschen Sprache* verfügt [...].“
(§ 9 Abs. 2 Nr. 7 AufenhG)
* entsprechen dem Niveau B1 des Gemeinsamen Europäischen Referenzrahmens für Sprachen
(§ 2 Abs. 11 AufenthG)
The meaning of learning languages varies for the learner, depending on which
status they have in society:
The German law requires from the 'nation's others' to prove their German language knowledge at the European level B1, in order to have a permanent residence in Germany (besides many other conditions). Above this very profound materialistic enforcement to learn the German language, the latter is one of the main demands for entering the educational system and the working market in Germany. „Contemporary manifestations of this logic include the maintained and protected use of Eurocentric curricula and pedagogy as common core to a solidified banking approach to higher education (Spring, 2008). Such pedagogy, for populations from nondominant cultures, explicitly seeks to erase existing knowledges and replace them with Eurocentric espistemologies and practices.“ (Patel 2016: 38)
Learning German language becomes a coercion. Attached to these language courses, German law demands a successful graduation of the orientation courses as a further demand for a permanent residence in Germany. These courses treat e.g. „history, culture and values that are important in Germany“. (Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge). Here I see a parallel to the laws in colonial Germany: „Naturalization was theoretically possible, but German authorities assumed that Africans in general could not reach the required moral, educational and economic level.“ (El-Tayeb 1999: 162) Today it is no more seen impossible by law, but still culture is being essentialized and seen as something that the 'nation's other' has to learn before being eligible for staying in Germany permanently.
In contrary, many privileged learn new languages for fun, e.g. for their holiday
abroad. It is even seen as a welcomed knowledge and gives the already
privileged more social capital. As Patel (2016: 38) states for the case of settler
colonialism, knowledge serves as property. In a German colonial context non-
European knowledges are not considered as proper knowledge. Setting and
forcing German as a standardized language protects the power of those profiting
from the racist national-ethnic-cultural norm. „Contemporary manifestations of
this logic include the maintained and protected use of Eurocentric curricula and
pedagogy as common core to a solidified banking approach to higher education
(Spring, 2008). Such pedagogy, for populations from non-dominant cultures,
explicitly seeks to erase existing knowledges and replace them with Eurocentric
espistemologies and practices.“ (Patel 2016: 38)
An additional factor occurring in this example of learning languages at the Bielefeld University Language Center the range of languages being offered. Many languages thought in the Language Center are imperial languages and only being spoken in many parts of the world, because of their violent spread.
Normailty of a potatoe: „I start my day with a comfi-session on the toilet!“
„§ 47 Aufenthalt in Aufnahmeeinrichtungen. (1) Ausländer, die den Asylantrag bei einer Außenstelle des Bundesamtes zu stellen haben [...], sind verpflichtet, bis zu sechs Wochen, längstens jedoch bis zu sechs Monaten, in der für ihre Aufnahme zuständigen Aufnahmeeinrichtung zu wohnen. [...] “
(§ 47 Abs. 1 AsylG)
People requesting asylum in Germany have to stay in first admittance camps
together with many other people who are in the same situation. Life in these
camps most often means sharing sleeping rooms, sharing sanitary facilities,
sharing dining rooms, etc. far away from medical and social infrastructure (Pro
Asyl 2015). This can last up to six months.
Sleeping, eating and defecating are some basic needs of human being, which are structurally being disturbed by German law for the 'nation's others', by forcing them to live under inhuman conditions. Thus structures of colonialism are being preserved in the colonial context of Germany, same as Patel observes for settler colonialism: „long after colonization has occurred through the intentional use of guns, germs, and steel to colonize, colonized peoples, now sharing physical space with those who colonized them, remain at the lower end of the social system in terms of access to security, health, and wealth, and experience the daily impacts of systemic violence?“ (Patel 2016: 14)
„(1a) Abweichend von Absatz 1 sind Ausländer aus einem sicheren Herkunftsstaat (§ 29a)* verpflichtet, bis zur Entscheidung des Bundesamtes über den Asylantrag und im Falle einer Ablehnung des Asylantrags [...] bis zur Ausreise oder bis zum Vollzug der Abschiebungsandrohung oder -anordnung in der für ihre Aufnahme zuständige Aufnahmeeinrichtung zu wohnen. [...]“
(§ 47 Abs. 1a AsylG)
* Albanien, Bosnien und Herzegowina, Ghana, Kosovo, Mazedonien, ehemalige jugoslawische Republik, Montenegro, Senegal, Serbien
(Anlage II (zu § 29a) AsylG)
Most people from so called 'save countries of origin' even have to stay in such camps till their final deportation under grueling circumstances, e.g. in Oerlinghausen (Flüchtlingshilfe Lippe e.V. 2018). The construction of 'safe countries of origin' is a further try to claim innocence for an actual organized crime by the state: The right for asylum is defines as an individual right, meaning a case-by-case assessment of each request for asylum. The general presumption of a safe life in specific counties by law, is undermining this right ? the access to their right for asylum is thus denied for refugees from so called 'safe counties of origin'. (Peach 2016: 13ff)
Normality of a potato: „What do we want to eat today?“ - „I feel like Broccoli- casserole.“
„§ 3 Grundleistungen. (1) Bei einer Unterbringung in Aufnahmeeinrichtungen [...] erhalten Leistungsberechtigte [...] Leistungen zur Deckung des Bedarfs an Ernährung, Unterkunft, Heizung, Kleidung, Gesundheitspflege und Gebrauchs- und Verbrauchsgütern des Haushalts (notwendiger Bedarf). Der notwendige Bedarf wird durch Sachleistungen gedeckt.“
(§ 3 Abs. 1 AsylbLG)
This law constitutes the legal frame of granting the basic benefits in kind by the state for people who have to live in admittance camps during their asylum procedure. The menus are standardized, autonomous nutrition, e.g. a 'Veggie- lifestyle', is made impossible for people falling into this category. Also here I see the structural power granting German citizens a more and people requesting asylum a less human status. Structures of colonialism are being preserved in the colonial context of Germany, same as Patel observes for settler colonialism: „long after colonization has occurred through the intentional use of guns, germs, and steel to colonize, colonized peoples, now sharing physical space with those who colonized them, remain at the lower end of the social system in terms of access to security, health, and wealth, and experience the daily impacts of systemic violence?“ (Patel 2016: 14)
Normality of a potato: „I don't just want to do something to make money, I want to self- actualize in my job.“
„§ 61 Erwerbstätigkeit. (1) Für die Dauer der Pflicht, in einer Aufnahmeeinrichtung zu wohnen, darf der Ausländer keine Erwerbstätigkeit ausüben. [...] Einem Ausländer aus einem sicheren Herkunftsstaat [...] darf während des Asylverfahrens die Ausübung einer Beschäftigung nicht erlaubt werden. “
(§ 61 Abs. 1 - 2 AsylG)
„§ 5 Arbeitsgelegenheiten. (1) In Aufnahmeeinrichtungen [...] sollen Arbeitsgelegenheiten insbesondere zur Aufrechterhaltung und Betreibung der Einrichtung zur Verfügung gestellt werden; [...] Im übrigen sollen soweit wie möglich Arbeitsgelegenheiten bei staatlichen, bei kommunalen und bei gemeinnützigen Trägern zur Verfügung gestellt werden, sofern die zu leistende Arbeit sonst nicht, nicht in diesem Umfang oder nicht zu diesem Zeitpunkt verrichtet werden würde. (2) Für die zu leistende Arbeit [...] wird eine Aufwandsentschädigung von 80 Cent je Stunde ausgezahlt [...].“
(§5 Abs. 1 - 2 AsylbLG)
The German Asylgesetz is forbidding people requesting asylum and living in admittance
camps to work and earn money. People from so called 'safe' countries of origin have to
stay in those camps till the end of their asylum procedure, mostly ending with a
deportation. (Flüchtlingshilfe Lippe e.V. 2018) This law is completely excluding them
from the working market. The German Asylbewerberleistungsgesetz is a law excluding
people requiring asylum in Germany from the general social benefits by the state by
creating separated standards for their benefits. It even creates an opportunity for the
communities to use cheap labor, having to pay only 80 cents per hour.
Germany shows a strong tradition in disenfranchising people on racist bases, of putting them in camps, taking their property and of taking their right to work. „According to fascist laws, they [black Germans] also lost their citizenship, the right to work, go to school or study and to own property“ (El-Tayeb 1999: 166).
Normality of a potato: „Studies finished: a new period of life. Time for a change of scene in a new town!“
„§12a Wohnsitzregelung. (1) Zur Förderung seiner nachhaltigen Integration in die Lebensverhältnisse der Bundesrepublik Deutschland ist ein Ausländer, der als Asylberechtigter, Flüchtling [...] oder subsidiär Schutzberechtigter [...] anerkannt worden ist [...], verpflichtet, für den Zeitraum von drei Jahren ab Anerkennung oder Erteilung der Aufenthaltserlaubnis in dem Land seinen gewöhnlichen Aufenthalt (Wohnsitz) zu nehmen, in das er zur Durchführung seines Asylverfahrens oder im Rahmen seines Aufnahmeverfahrens zugewiesen worden ist. [...] [Dies] findet keine Anwendung, wenn der Ausländer, [...] eine sozialversicherungspflichtige Beschäftigung [...] [zur Sicherung des Lebensunterhaltes] für eine Einzelperson verfügt, oder eine Berufsausbildung aufnimmt oder aufgenommen hat oder in einem Studien- oder Ausbildungsverhältnis steht.“
(§ 12a Abs. 1 AufenthG)
This article has ironically been approved in the frame of the new 'integration
law' by the Bundestag in July 2016 (BT Drucksache 18/8615). It forces people
who recently got granted their asylum in Germany to stay in the same place
(often in remote areas) where they have already been obliged to live during
their asylum procedure.
These policies carry the ironic idea to counteract tendencies of 'segregation that hamper integration' with strange examples such as people moving to bigger cities where they might meet more people speaking their native language. (ibid.: 3) Instead of 'integrating' - a term that needs to be criticized - this is following the "erase to replace logic" (Patel 2016: 38). Patel is using it for a settler colonial context and I would argue that it also fits for the political discourse in the context of colonial Germany: erasing rights, autonomy, social bounds and replacing them by an imposed construction of Germanness, e.g. being taught in so called 'integration' courses.
The term integration implies a given and essentialized society with static values and norms that someone lacking these has to learn before being able to be part of it. This someone addresses in the discourse on migration the 'nation's other'. Especially in this case of obligation of residence in a specific municipality during and even after the asylum procedure, 'integration' is happening under the capitalist premise of fördern und fordern (transl.: supporting and demanding). If the person affected by this law fulfills the demand of having a job, apprenticeship or university placement in a different place, they are allowed to move before the three years of residence obligations' ending. Here the entanglement of capitalism with racism becomes obvious: only when being 'integrated' in and thus useful for the working market, often under exploitative conditions, the 'nation's other' becomes human enough to be allowed to move to somewhere else. Even the romanticized idea of integration as a respectful meeting on equal basis, which anyway is not possible in a situation of unequal preconditions, is not being accomplished. German 'integration' politics masquerade as a positive project, but are actually doing the opposite of a respectful togetherness: disfranchisement, exclusion and adjustment of the 'nation's other'. In the concept of answerability, Patel is criticizing „malignant and impossible settler projects of assimilation and integration“ and proposing a decolonizing work that „become[s] answerable to learning.“ (Patel 2016: 96) Exactly these ways assimilation and integration can also be found in the colonial context of Germany and have to be disclosed and dismantled.
El-Tayeb states that „the hierarchy of races was central to the construction of a modern Western identity that needed to distance itself both from the rest of the world and its own medieval self.“ (El-Tayeb 1999: 150) In my comparison of the pictures showing the privilege and the articles that exclude people from this privilege the remaining colonial order becomes obvious. Basing on this colonial logic the order of citizenship is still defining who is more human than others and hence must be abolished.
During the process of my photo project I faced difficulties that made me reflect on how
and if to continue.
In terms of my ethical researcher position, it was important to me, not to objectify the nation's "others" by taking photographs of camps, deportations, etc. Instead highlighting the 'national's' privileges gave the chance to encourage white German citizens to reflect their position in society and see that some normalities aren't normal to everyone. I do not want to say that it is illegitimate to study at university or to enjoy a clean toilet. But I want to stress that there is a system behind it that creates these inequalities and that has to be reflected and counteracted - also, and especially by privileged, who have access to powerful positions in society and therefore most probably use their power over others in one or the other way. Instead of again and again reproducing the racist relations, researches, activists, social workers, in fact everyone, should hold on and reflect on ways to be answerable to those they intend to 'help' (Patel 2016: 71-82). I tried to disclose my own entanglement in racist power relations, but still I was facing the difficulty of how to name it during my analysis. In some places I wrote about the 'privileged white German citizens', where I could have just been writing 'we'/'us' as I am part of this category. At the same time I did not want to reproduce the strong 'we' or 'us' in the German discourse on national belonging, so I decided against using this term.
Furthermore the pictures and law articles highlight only parts of a diverse reality.
Therefore my difficulties lay in deciding on which information I would like to present
and by implication, which information I would leave out.
First, drawing the line between the 'nationals' and the nation's "others" captures social reality only in parts. It highlights the perspective of racism and nationalism and thus pays less attention to other social categories structuring society, such as gender, class, age, etc. (Machold 2009: 390) There are many people having different status as 'foreigner' and still being able to visit their families in and outside of Germany, to have a relaxed session on their own toilet, to make a volunteer-service abroad or to move to another city. On the other hand there are German citizens being excluded from studying at university, facing exclusion of the labour market, not having the chance to learn further languages, etc. By highlighting the line of difference of nationality and ethnicity and presenting them in a simplified way there is always the risk of reproducing exactly the power relations connected to them. Still I stayed with this way of presenting, because nationalism and racism are existing powerful structures in society that have to be addressed and fought, which can't be done without naming them, especially on the material level of law. (ibid.) Institutions carrying out these laws, such as Ausländerbehörde, the camp operators or border police, will hardly be a thread for a White German citizens status.
Secondly I faced the difficulty of allowing pictures that are not the main focus of educational theory to be part of the project. When you ask the "others" on what they find most challenging, things come up that theory is not representing in detail, such as as clean toilets. Still dirty sanitary facilities are one of the main complaints of people staying in admittance camps who I met and therefore belong to this photo project.
Looking at more articles structuring society and drawing lines between German citizens and the 'nation's others' and a deeper analysis of the historical racist entanglement for example with Conrad (2013) and the struggles of resistance couldn't be done in this short exhibition, but are necessary in order to change national and racist exclusion. Furthermore alternate social orders to national states have to be analysed and put in practice.
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