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DFG-Network: Migration and Im/Mobility in the Global South during a Pandemic

Universität Bielefeld

Project leaders

Antje Missbach
Heike Drotbohm

2021 – 2024

The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic has produced unanticipated and novel experiences of isolation, confinement, as well as social, economic and legal exclusion around the globe. Restrictions of urban, regional and international mobility were legitimized with the intention to contain the virus. Curfews, quarantine, social distancing and other mobility controls have been implemented globally, but certain people for whom mobility is an essential act have been affected more severely than others. Border closures and non-entree policies, but even push-backs or illegal deportations were justified with the help of with pandemic-related health risks. In regard to such immobilization measures, mobile populations and non-citizens have become even greater targets of suspicion, xenophobia, and hostility.

In addition, in regard to researching the social consequences of the pandemic, we note a one-sided focus on the Global North within the social sciences. Many researchers have lost direct contact to their research sites in the Global South and can only follow developments from afar and/or through the media.

This current situation drives us to develop alternative approaches in order to a) collect data, b) produce new knowledge about the impact of the pandemic on certain research areas and c) contribute to formulation of new theories within the social sciences, which will programmatically re-orientate migration and im/mobility studies.

This scientific network aims to productively make use of the current standstill as an opportunity to bring together different empirical experiences and theoretical perspectives. We will examine the extent to which we are dealing with a normalization of decoupling, isolation, and structurally generated waiting. We are also interested in whether this “new normal” will lead to an “age of immobility” and how we can conceptually sharpen this. Our findings will be used to bring different scales of immobility and migration (micro, meso and macro) into a common theoretical framework. At the same time, we wish to make an important contribution to increasing awareness of the problem through a critical analysis of these new global distortions.

Over the course of three years, the participants of this network will jointly investigate to what extent the current global immobilization might transform norms, practices and experiences of migration and im/mobility in the long term. A series of five workshops and the involvement of external experts will facilitate the exchange of ideas and experiences, promote joint publications and raise public awareness.

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