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Viadrina Institute for European Studies (IFES)

Current research project

The aim of this research project is to contribute to the understanding of European self-definitions and self-perceptions through a cultural sociological inquiry of the EU border regime.

The main research questions relate to the symbolic, cultural, and technological borders that are emerging along and beyond the geographic external borders of the EU. The focus lies mainly on the material practices of border surveillance and control. What kind of technological equipment is being used and which definitions of border, of Europe and of the people who cross those borders can be read from this?

The study also inquires the discursive elements that are mobilized in order to explain and legitimate these practices. Discourses and practices of the actors involved are thereby understood as part of a processual negotiation. The analysis addresses questions such as:

  • What EU border regime is being currently produced and negotiated?

  • What new configurations of the relationship between technology and ‚nature‘ take place in that process and what forms of exclusion, construction of alterity and ‚bare life‘ are taking place?

  •  What processes of displacement and invisibilization of violence take place?

The cultural-sociological study draws on a variety of primary and secondary sources and uses qualitative research methods; including interviews, micro-sociological observations, discourse analyses and hermeneutical analyses of the technology

The practices, discourses and techniques at the EU borders are examined at case studies of air, sea and land borders. In the case of maritime borders, micro-sociological observations, semi-structured interviews and spontaneous conversations have been conducted during four research stays in the Greek-Turkish maritime border zone between 2013 and 2016. Land borders are analysed on the basis of the borderlands between Morocco and Spain (the exclaves of Ceuta and Melilla). Air borders are investigated with a focus on the biometric controls used at Europe’s borders at international airports.