Urban Border Spaces

Cities have been recognized as key sites for the inclusion of migrants. What has been less recognized is that the growing diversity of mechanisms of urban migration control is turning cities into key sites for exclusion as well. The project investigates city policies and practices of urban migration control and how they are experienced by migrants, in other words, it analyses the emergence of urban border spaces in Europe. While studies on migration and border control have been focusing primarily on national and, increasingly, European scales, preliminary research for this project indicates that urban authorities and non-state actors play important roles in this field, through identity checks in city streets, for example, or through the checking of migrants residence status for the provision of social services. To close this research gap, this project draws on and integrates three previously disconnected strands of research, namely, urban migration research, which focuses on urban inclusion and citizenship but has largely neglected the issue of borders; border studies, which reveals the fundamental transformations of border spaces in Europe but does not consider the role of cities; and urban studies, which considers urban transformations but has rarely, if ever, addressed the role of borders. The disconnectedness of these three strands of research has obfuscated the fact that some recent border transformations concern urban migration control, which is intimately related to processes and migrants' experience of exclusion and inclusion in cities.

In addressing this gap in the research on urban forms of control, this project asks (a) how cities engage with migration control; (b) how migrants experience urban control; and (c) how we can explain differences across cities. It further seeks to understand and conceptualize (d) the relationship between (urban) citizenship and control. These questions are addressed by means of qualitative social science research based on an urban comparative design, with comparison being premised on the assumption that the scalar position of a city in the global urban hierarchy and the degree of global connectivity influence urban politics of control. The research is conducted in Germany and Spain and involves data from official statistics and documents, semi-structured interviews with staff from local authorities and other relevant organizations, and narrative biographical interviews with migrants. Our work in these countries focuses on two global cities, Frankfurt am Main and Madrid, and two less globalized cities, Dortmund and Bilbao.

The project contributes to the empirical and theoretical understanding of cities and urban spaces in the changing spatial organization of borders in Europe, which will help us understand the interconnected dynamics of inclusion and exclusion, of (urban) citizenship and control, and how the interplay of these dynamics shapes the lives of migrants in European cities.

 

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