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Guest Talk Usman Mahar

Neither Immigrant nor Refugee: The Everyday Life of Affect in the Deportation and Return of Pakistani “Economic Migrants"


17 May 2021, 18.15, Zoom-Meeting
Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology
Oettingenstraße 67
80538 München

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Usman Mahar, M.A. (LMU Munich):

Neither Immigrant nor Refugee: The Everyday Life of Affect in the Deportation and Return of Pakistani “Economic Migrants”

The collocation "economic migrant" has reemerged as a popular discursive term for a category of people. The term draws pity at best and hostility at worst, but primarily suspicion towards people who fit the definition of neither an immigrant nor a refugee. On the one hand, they lack the neoliberal requirements and capabilities (capital, skills, professional training, education, etc.) for more privileged forms of mobility normalised as regular migration. On the other hand, it is argued that their movement is a rational economic choice and thus does not warrant humanitarian support and compassion meant for victims of violence with apparent perpetrators. The term, therefore, becomes a moniker for a category of people who can be dispossessed of international mobility under state laws meant to safeguard national and territorial sovereignty. While people from several "safe" countries of the so-called Global South are placed into this category, our DFG research project focuses on the ejection (deportation and "voluntary" return) of those from a particular country of origin: Pakistan. How do people under threat of expulsion, especially those ejected, make sense of their precarious situation and engage with their vulnerabilities? I delve into that question by studying the everyday life of affect and the conjunctive emotional economy that ejection unfurls in my interlocutors’ lives. In doing so, I make the micro-political, socio-cultural and religious lifeworlds of my migrant interlocutors the locus of my attention. More specifically, I unpack the critical role of Islam and destiny in what I call the im/mobility hope-despair experience. Along with other uncommon knowledge, I bring affective ideas of destiny upon which hope and despair play out in my interlocutors’ precarious migratory lives to the discursive surface.

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