Mobilizing within Networks of Solidarity: Resource Mobilization and Embeddedness of Refugee Activists in Local Solidarity Networks in Berlin, Germany

Monday, 11 July 2016
Location: Hörsaal 26 (Main Building)
Distributed Paper
Elias STEINHILPER, Scuola Normale Superiore, Italy
The last decade has witnessed an explosion of refugee and refugee solidarity activism in many European countries, including Germany. Since 2012, the German context can be understood as a ‘cycle of contention’ around the rights of migrants: previously scattered protest events are increasingly tied together in a social movement with personal continuity, an emerging collective identity and clearly identifiable movement organizations in various mostly urban centres. Furthermore, protest marches, hunger strikes and occupations of public space have contributed to a high visibility of these protests. Somehow, academic research has been taken by surprise by these developments – most likely, because refugees as ‘precarious residents’ have been viewed as unlikely subjects of mobilization due to limited economic resources and social and cultural capital. Furthermore, the constant ‘deportability’ of refugees considerably increases the risk of mobilization leading to a large majority of refugees remaining in the shadows and avoiding open confrontation with public authorities. Despite these obstacles, refugees do mobilize.

The proposed paper addresses the recent refugee mobilizations in Germany and scrutinizes how activists mobilise material and ideational resources. It draws upon social movement theory on resource mobilization and particularly the role of personal local and national networks for resource-poor ‘challengers’. Methodologically, the paper is based on in-depth interviews and participatory qualitative social network analysis with refugee activists in Berlin; in this method, the research subjects are asked to create a visual map of their social network and discuss their significance (intensity of exchange, type of exchange, types of resources mobilized through the respective channel). In understanding the perception of support networks by refugee activists, the paper aims both at an academic contribution and at improving practices of migrant solidarity.