The aim of this network is to create space for an intellectual exchange and the production of new theoretical and discursive avenues around intra-European regimes of migration, labour and social reproduction. The specific focus is on conflicts around European Union citizenship and the right to free movement as part of a highly stratified and contested system of legal statuses and practices within unequal EU-european spaces. We would like to explore the possibilities of putting together a lasting platform that shares an emancipatory agenda for critically engaging with contemporary processes of neoliberal governance and (re-)articulations of nationalist, (neo)colonial, heteronormative and racializing projects within EU-Europe.
While the European migration and border regime shows its most violent face at its external borders, over the past years the right to free movement within the European Union has become more and more contested. The figure of the ‘poverty migrant’ has been in the midst of EU-wide conflicts around (de-)Europeanisation and a subject of moral panic for local politics, where EU migrants are often racialised in urban security spectacles. Meanwhile, many EU citizens continue to navigate ever more insecure working situations and livelihoods – often through transnational practices and participation in highly fragmented social worlds.
The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has shed some light on the hyper-exploitative practices that migrants – predominantly from Eastern Europe – face in the low-waged sections of the labour market. In Germany, this has led to legal initiatives such as the ban of subcontracting in the meat industry. On the other, media coverage has amplified narratives of victimisation and need in which migrant workers figured as passive victims that are not considered as part of German society. Their bodies have been pathologised as bringing infection while their mobility has been scandalised as economically opportunistic and morally reprehensible. In reality, migrants need to negotiate multiple positionalities and intersecting attachments, not only as workers, but also as carers, affective beings, homemakers, etc. – which can often produce conflicting or hard to reconcile obligations and aspirations.
Intra-EU migration remains a relatively under-explored topic in academia. Scholars have voiced the need for developing new theoretical approaches and conceptual standpoints, however, current efforts to shed light on the controversies surrounding intra-EU regimes of migration, labour and social reproduction continue to be separated by disciplinary boundaries, conceptual and methodological demarcations, as well as language competencies.
What is the current state of research on intra-EU migration regimes when it comes to shifts in research questions, methodologies, theoretical frameworks, etc? With intra-EU migration as an analytical lens, what can we learn about current societal dynamics, such as the precarisation of labour, the fragmentation of social security, the proliferation of racialised and ethnicised categories of difference but also new forms of resistance and emancipatory struggles? What changes have occurred in the organisation of mobility, labour and social reproduction in the context of coalescing recent crises and their economic, social and health effects (2008 economic recession, Covid-19 health and economic crisis, etc.)? These were some of the questions discussed at the kickoff workshop ‘Freedom of Movement? Intra-EU regimes of Migration, Labour and Social Reproduction’ that took place online on 24 September 2021. The event served as a platform to bring together established and early career scholars from diverse geographical and disciplinary backgrounds, as well as to forge conversations with third sector actors and those engaged in activists projects in different parts of Europe. The workshop generated productive entry points and mapped out important conceptual and epistemological challenges that approaches to intra-EU migration should take into account.
We see this encounter as a first step towards creating a lasting intellectual exchange and new ways of knowing and thinking about the conjunctures shaping up free mobility, labour and social reproduction and the asymetrical power relations that mark the intra-EUropean space. If you would like to join this network and receive regular updates on related events, publications and collaborations, please subscribe to our mailing list.