Living on the Margins: ‘Illegality’, Statelessness and the Politics of Removal in 20th Century Europe and the United States

Living on the Margins: ‘Illegality’, Statelessness and the Politics of Removal in 20th Century Europe and the United States

Kathleen Canning, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; Jana Haeberlein, University of Basel; Barbara Luethi, University of Basel; Miriam Ruerup, German Historical Institute, Washington DC
German Historical Institute
Washington, DC
United States
From - Until
09.02.2012 - 11.02.2012
Miriam Ruerup

In contemporary history both stateless people and “illegal aliens” have been addressed as the “citizen’s others” (Linda Kerber), whose lack of citizenship rights prevents them from participating in social and political life. Currently illegality, statelessness and the politics of removal define routine states of being and state practices around the globe. How exactly have they become naturalized in this way?

All three phenomena are particularly relevant to studies of governmentality, citizenship, transnationalism and globalization (Nathalie Peutz). At the same time, throughout the twentieth century illegality, statelessness and forced removals represent political processes with genealogical roots in historical forms of in- and exclusion, in definitions of citizenship and belonging, and in different forms of deportation and expulsion. What links these phenomena is, for one, that the persons affected by these processes are often constituted as lacking subjectivity. Second, they are removed physically from the social landscapes they inhabit and rendered nearly invisible. Third, these states of being are often, though not always, “coerced” phenomena that involve (non-)spectacular violence. At the same time these phenomena have produced acts of resistance from non-state actors such as migrants/the illegalized themselves, human rights organizations and others.

The conference aims to address the following questions with a specific yet not exclusive focus on their historical dimensions:

- What are the reasons and effects underlying the different developments within distinct nation-state frameworks of Eastern and Western Europe and North-America in the 20th century and how might we explain the divergent developments in these distinct geographical settings? Are there newly emerging global forms of political and economic rationalizations and if so: to what extent do the nation-state bound experiences of illegality, statelessness and removal shape new forms of international politics? In more concrete terms: What are the legal, financial, political, and social domains of illegality, statelessness and procedures of removal in their specific geographical and temporal/historical settings? What are these domains? How do we understand them? What are the meanings of these domains?

- What place do “labels” (such as “illegals”, “stateless”) have within bureaucratic, political, scientific and other procedures of defining and dividing population groups? While such labels often stem from experts’ discourses, we are specifically interested in investigating how they in turn shape policies, programs, and bureaucratic processes. When and how do processes of definition-making turn into policy-making and de-legalisation?

- How does our analysis change once we shift the focus to those affected by these practices and to those actors who are themselves involved in the practice of removal, statelessness, illegality? Who benefits from the politics of removal, and in what ways? This call for papers encourages submissions on the topics of migrants, actors from the state and its bureaucracies, private persons and organizations, both those who support those deemed illegal or stateless and persons concerned (illegalized, stateless and other) as well as those who shape or facilitate the politics of removal (such as border police, medical doctors, bureaucrats, transportation companies). How are illegal/stateless people subjectified and produced as gendered, racialized and classed subjects? How do age, religion and other categories come into play? And how are the deaths of illegals and removed persons conceived and constituted through the politics of removal?

- What narratives did (and do) the different protagonists – including the illegal aliens, removed and stateless themselves – develop and construct out of those processes and experiences? Are contemporary practices of removal and the states of illegality and statelessness invested with historical memories and former practices? Are there any specific “spatializations” and “visualizations” pertaining to these phenomena and practices and perhaps even visible (or less visible) forms of opposition and resistance?

Conveners of this conference are Kathleen Canning (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor), Jana Haeberlein (University of Basel), Barbara Luethi (University Basel), Miriam Ruerup (German Historical Institute, Washington DC).

The organizers hope to cover all expenses for travel and accommodation for participants presenting papers. This call for papers is international in scope and is aimed at scholars across the relevant disciplines. Our intention is to pre-circulate papers before the conference, so we can concentrate on commentary and discussion during the conference. We are particularly interested in proposals from younger scholars whose work research relates to our subject.

Kindly email your proposals in either English or German, which should be no more than 300 words, together with a short (max. 2-page) curriculum vitae, to Ms. Baerbel Thomas at before July 15, 2011. Please write “Living on the Margins” in the subject line and attach your proposal and c.v. as a combined file, preferably in pdf format. Applicants will be notified the latest by early October 2011.


Contact (announcement)

Baerbel Thomas

German Historical Institute
1607 New Hampshire Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20009
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