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Affective borders: the emotional politics of the German ‘refugee crisis’

Holzberg, Billy (2019) Affective borders: the emotional politics of the German ‘refugee crisis’. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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This thesis constitutes an original conceptualisation and analysis of affective borders that brings together feminist, queer and postcolonial theories of affect with critical border and migration studies. It examines what the public reaction to the so called “refugee crisis” in Germany can tell us about the role that affect plays in producing, legitimising and contesting the European border regime. To that end, it focuses on the mobilisation of three different affects in key scenes of the border spectacle that unfolded during the long summer of migration (the time period from early summer 2015 to the beginning of 2016) in Germany: the invocation of empathy in relation to the publication of the photo of Alan Kurdi; the eruption of anger after the sexual abuse cases during New Year’s Eve in Cologne; and the articulation of hope in Angela Merkel’s “Wir schaffen das” speeches. Tracing affect through these scenes, this thesis uncovers dominant structures of feeling that sustain the deadly logics of the European border regime and suggests that affective borders need to be understood as social and historical forces that reinstall racial, national and sexual hierarchies. By further attending to alternative practices of migrant marches, refugee hunger strikes, acts of public mourning and activist interventions aimed at shaming the European Union, the thesis also highlights the potential for new forms of affective solidarity and resistance to emerge. This work should be of unique interest for scholars aiming to understand how the European border regime is produced, legitimised and contested as well as for those interested to understand how affect theory can be harnessed for more intricate social and political analyses.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2019 Billy Holzberg
Library of Congress subject classification: J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
J Political Science > JV Colonies and colonization. Emigration and immigration. International migration
Sets: Departments > Gender Institute
Supervisor: Hemmings, Clare

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