Sub-project B.3

Human Rights Discourse in Political Protests of Refugees and Undocumented Migrants in Germany and the US

This research project aims at examining human rights discursive practices of refugee and migrant activists in the context of undocumented and precarious migration. It focuses on political interventions and articulations from the 1990s until today in Germany and in the USA, in particular on how political self-organized migrant and refugee groups address and denounce the tension between human rights as norms and their factual implementation.
The idea of the project emerged from the observation that human (and civil) rights are not merely given or conclusive. They are constantly disputed, invoked, and evoked by self-organized political groups and organizations of persons subjected to migration and asylum laws constraining their access to basic rights such as freedom of movement, housing, education, health, work, and social welfare. The four research sub-questions are:

  • In what ways are official human rights claims referred to?

  • What are the alternative understandings and articulations of rights?

  • How are experiences of injustice articulated?

  • What is the political understanding of rights?

From a position of politically engaged researchers and activists, the research team takes a feminist, anti-racist, decolonial perspective on knowledge production, regarding research as an instrument that should benefit refugees and migrant movement activists. In this vein, the project joins the scholarly critique that denounces the adoption of victimization discourses in the institutional practice of migration and border control specific to the humanitarian discursive formation. Thus, central to the project is the analysis and theory production generated within the political self-organizations from persons affected by EU migration, asylum, and border-control policies. On these grounds, it engages with the critique of the exclusionary and dehumanizing effects of these policies.
This project sheds light on different understandings of human rights as rights addressing the dehumanizing effects of asylum and migration control policies, as well as on alternative visions of justice, juridical recognition, and political participation. In doing so, the project points to a rather unexplored entanglement between asylum and migration control policies and (neo-/post-)colonial global inequalities.
The research team works methodologically on two levels. It conducts a critical analysis of digital archives in the outlined research field, while it also engages with community-oriented and participatory research.

Principal Investigator: Prof. Dr. Encarnación Gutiérrez Rodríguez

Research Associates: Slađana Branković, Basma Al-Moyed (Student Assistant), Oscar Herzog Astaburuaga (Student Assistant)

Goethe University Frankfurt