Transforming Work Practices in Asylum Authorities. Practice-Theoretical Perspectives on the Implementation of a Training Programme.

Monday, 11 July 2016: 17:00
Location: Hörsaal BIG 1 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Stephanie SCHNEIDER, University of Siegen, Germany
The paper presents empirical insights into a particular instance of ‘change management’, namely, efforts to introduce elements of a ‘service orientation’ into asylum authorities. From a practice-theoretical perspective and based on a qualitative study conducted within the German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF), the focus will be put on the socialisation and training of decision-making-officers within the organisation.

Asylum authorities can be considered state-bureaucratic organisations par excellence since they exercise a central societal function: to produce sovereign decisions on who is to belong to the collective and who is not. Until recently, and in contrast to bureaucratic organisations dealing with ‘citizens’, asylum seekers have been conceived not so much as ‘clients’ of the organisation but rather as subjects to be interrogated, policed and controlled. While asylum authorities have been at the forefront in terms of introducing important elements of managerialism (computerization, incl. the use of biometric data; output-orientation etc.), attempts to introduce a ‘service orientation’ are a quite recent phenomenon; a phenomenon that has, however, gained in importance as a resource in struggles around the maintenance of legitimacy.

The preliminary results of my study suggest that a) the conceptions and guiding principles contained within the new training programmes and organisational guidelines differ in fundamental respects from local work routines and the objectives measured by the organisation’s workflow management systems, and that b) it is ultimately up to the individual caseworker to process the conflicting demands emanating from efficiency and quality norms. Looking at work and training practices in microscopic detail, I will argue that the changes taking place within the BAMF must be considered a hybrid of a return to bureaucracy and the simultaneous subjectification of its most central dilemmas. This fundamentally changes the way caseworkers relate to their work and to the organisation as a whole.