2nd Annual Conference of the nccr – on the move. An Epilog.

Changing Realities of Migration and Mobility. A Swiss Perspective.

University of Neuchatel, 23 – 24 June 2016

During two wonderful summer days at Lake Neuchatel, some 120 migration and mobility scholars got together to map the changing Swiss realities of migration and mobility within the wider European context – as well as the interdisciplinary research on it. To do so, 15 scholars convened in-depth workshops for which they invited fellow researchers and international discussants. The conference assembled research groups on topics as different as movement to and through Switzerland (Jana Häberlein/Simon Sontowski), immigration in federal States (Jean-Thomas Arrighi), discrimination in labor markets (Rosita Fibbi), attitudes towards immigrants (Didier Ruedin), procedural law as new governance of migration (Stefan Schlegel), obstacles to successful labor market integration (Flavia Fossati), ageing in the context of migration (Mihaela Nedelcu), labor market effects of immigration (Andrea Ariu/Tobias Müller), international students mobility (Etienne Piguet/Yvonne Riaño), postmigrant societies in Europe (Kijan Espahangizi), methodological challenges in research on highly skilled migration (Metka Herzog), and politics of asylum and mental health (Laure Kloetzer). All these workshosp discussed aspects of the changing Swiss realities of migration and mobility within the intersecting dynamics of securitization, marketization and human rights.

Photographic impressions

As a first contextualization of the Swiss case, political scientist and legal scholar Jo Shaw from the University of Edinburgh discussed the consequences of Brexit in the UK – the same day the vote took place. The insightful and passionate keynote made clear, how migration and mobility have become the most contentious issues in the multilevel negotiations between sovereignty of nation states and EU governance. More research is needed to better understand how this renaissance of anti-migration populism and national sovereignty is connected to the growing social inequality in Europe, fueled particularly by the economic crisis of 2008.

“European Migration and Mobility Regimes Reviewed in the Light of the UK Brexit Referendum” by Jo Shaw, Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, University of Edinburgh

The anthropologist Greg Feldman from the Simon Fraser University presented an ethnographic account of the EU migration apparatus, which tries to keep control over the uncertainties of migration and mobility. The apparatus combines, he argued, satellite technology, bureaucratic procedures, and military warfare strategies in order to defend “Fortress Europe” against low-skilled third country nationals – while at the same time coming up with schemes to attract highly skilled professionals from all over the world. His vivid depiction showed the “banality of the evil” in the contemporary European border regime that turns humans into statistics, cartographic spots and biometric information. The keynote also gave insight into the ethical dilemmas that migration and security officers face within this apparatus.

“The Structure of Ethical Dilemmas among Policymakers and Security Officials in Contemporary European Migration Management” by Gregory Feldman, School for International Studies, Simon Fraser University

Both keynotes made it clear that changing realities of migration and mobility can only be understood when embedded in the global and particularly European dynamics of securitization, marketization and human rights order.

In a third plenary session, seven scholars presented a Pecha Kucha on broad variety of topics: data management in migration research (Andréas Perret), “feeling at home” in mobile families (Flavia Cangià, Deborah Levitan), reaction to exclusion among migrants from a gender perspective (Carolin Fischer), the win-win-win situation in the Migration-Development Nexus (Alice Hertzog), the maritime imaginaries and migrants rights in postcolonial Zurich (Rohit Jain), and the work of the “Watch the Med Alarm Phone” (Simon Sontowksi). All presenters managed to combine both explorative arguments and entertainment after a long day of scientific discussions. To be continued….

So, the 2nd annual conference of the nccr – on the move was a success: it assembled a good part of the Swiss field of migration and mobility studies together with international commentators, and it started to map the Swiss realities of migration and mobility against the wider European and global background. Connecting the Swiss scientific and political debates and networks to the international context will be continued in the activities and collaborations of the nccr – on the move and its partners. For certain, the memories of the great atmosphere at this year’s annual conference, including the sunny lunch breaks and the dinner at the Lake of Neuchatel, will help to do so. We are looking forward to the next annual conference, which will take place 22–23 June 2017.

Rohit Jain, Scientific Officer, nccr – on the move