EASA2014: Collaboration, Intimacy & Revolution

(P045)

Tracing eligibilities: moralities, performances, practices (EASA Network for Anthropology of Law and Rights)

Location S-238
Date and Start Time 03 August, 2014 at 09:00

Convenors

Heike Drotbohm (Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz) email
Julia Eckert (University of Bern) email
Mail All Convenors

Short Abstract

The network "anthropology of Law and Rights" calls for papers on eligibility as an ethnographic field, which combines moralities, performances, and social practices.

Long Abstract

The politics of 'eligibility' refer to imaginations of deservingness and vulnerability. In this panel we will bring together papers, which trace moralities, performances and practices of eligibility in different institutional contexts and from different actors' perspectives. The creation (and disolution) of eligibility can be understood as a dialogical moment of collaboration between state bureaucrats, lawyers, medical assessors, aid organizations, witnesses, and the applicants/potential claimants/candidates themselves, in which the credibility of certain stories, the authenticity of persons, and 'truth' is judged. We enquire into the criteria mobilized by different actors for creating eligibility and into the determination of evidence for justifying decisions on eligibility. We are interested in understanding the ways in which different actors come to imagine 'the vulnerable other', in how ideas of eligibility respond to historical shifts, are adapted, and how their relation to ideas of a body politic is assessed from different perspectives. We would also like to understand how apparent non- or misunderstandings as well as failures or refusals are interpreted from different points of view. Last but not least, we ask what kind of dilemmas and methodological challenges do ethnographers face when researching eligibility from different angles? This panel seeks papers drawing from anthropological fieldwork, which trace eligibilities refering to individual (e.g. access to territory/residence/citizenship, access to health/medical care, protection from violence, financial support) or collective bodies (e.g. collective rights, humanitarian aid).

Discussant: Heath Cabot (College of the Atlantic)

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Eligibility: some introductory remarks

Authors: Julia Eckert (University of Bern)  email
Heike Drotbohm (Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz)  email

Short Abstract

The definition of "Eligibility" is central for establishing access to rights and goods. We explore its uses and transformations in the practices of actors claiming or deciding upon such chances of access.

Long Abstract

The establishment and denial of eligibility is today a quotidian and ubiquitous bureaucratic act determining access to rights and goods. It can be understood as a dialogical moment of negotiation of various actors, be they state bureaucrats, lawyers, medical assessors, aid organizations, witnesses, and the applicants/potential claimants/candidates, in which the credibility of certain claims, the authenticity of persons, and 'truth' is judged. We enquire into the criteria mobilized by different actors for creating eligibility and into the determination of evidence for justifying claims to and decisions about eligibility. In order to understand the ways in which different actors come to imagine 'the deserving other', we explore how ideas of eligibility respond to historical shifts, are adapted, and how they relate to ideas of a body politic.

Iterations of eligibility: on access and competences on the threshold of the Rwandan justice system

Author: Stefanie Bognitz (Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, Halle/Germany)  email

Short Abstract

The paper traces actors on the threshold of the Rwandan justice system. Navigating gain and loss, resources are mobilised and competences develop. Eligibility criteria are iterated and negotiated in public mediation forums where actors seize competences by submitting arguments to reality tests.

Long Abstract

The paper traces actors on the threshold of the Rwandan justice system. By resorting to the intimate ethnographic method of extended cases, individuals are followed in their tireless pursuit of rights and justice. Against the dynamics of gain and loss, beneficiaries and claimants have to mobilise resources and develop competences. Given the need to navigate new institutional arrangements in local governance structures and being processed through transforming organisational assemblages of local justice, actors' capabilities and strategies are put in focus. The analysis thus follows ways of orientation and sensitisation that are provided to actors on the threshold of the justice system. It aims to pay attention to how iterations and negotiations of eligibility become valid or are discarded. Criteria for eligibility are reiterated and renegotiated in public forums for mediation (Komité y'Abunzi). In these forums of community mediation, actors seize their competences through iteration of eligibility and put their arguments to test. By reiterating eligibility, they take recourse to competences and transform the criteria for eligibility accordingly. Mediators act as intermediaries in their capacity to lay out the rules of engagement in iterations of eligibility and negotiate parties' competences. These insights show that formalisation and institutionalisation of access to justice in Rwanda, not only provide spaces for collaboration, intimacy and critique but make actors seize their competences. It will be elaborated in more detail, how iterations of eligibility translate into the capability to seize competences, especially in an environment of noteworthy social control and formalised structures of compliance.

Crossing categorical boundaries and anticipatory knowledge

Author: Andrea Behrends (Martin-Luther University, Halle)  email

Short Abstract

On the Chadian border to Darfur, people use and frequently cross international categories like "refugee", "internally displaced", "local", "rebel". This paper argues that by using such labels, people display their anticipatory knowledge about what is behind categories and what each category affords.

Long Abstract

Since the Darfur War that started in 2003, more than 200.000 people continue to live in various refugee camps in the wider border region. During my long term research in the Darfur-Chad borderlands (2000-2014), international staff of humanitarian organisations have often remarked that: "All people here seem to be the same, same dress, same language and they all seem to know each other. In which way do they differ?" Taking up this question leads to the interesting observation, already noted by Fredrik Barth (1967), that people in this region have often crossed boundaries between different groups, geographical areas, occupations, or languages. Indeed, many people living in this area today differentiate between "refugees" and "locals", "internally displaced" or even "vulnerables" up to "person living in bloc C of camp XY". Certainly, particular claims can be attached to each respective status. But more importantly, none of the categories are as fixed as they seem. People can be "refugees", but still successful in business. They can be "internally displaced", but work their fields during farming season. Thus, this paper argues that the people of the borderlands, by using internationally attributed categories, display their anticipatory knowledge about what is behind categories and what each category affords.

Constructing asylum narratives in the Swiss procedure: practices and perspectives of asylum seekers

Author: Raphaël Rey (University of Neuchâtel)  email

Short Abstract

This paper explores how asylum seekers, throughout their procedures and in relation with other actors, construct asylum narratives that could make them eligible for protection. It explores the perceptions they have of the asylum system and the effects of those perceptions on their actions.

Long Abstract

In order to be to be granted protection, asylum seekers must be capable of presenting narratives of their flight stories that are deemed credible and truthful by the Swiss authorities. In the course of the procedure, asylum seekers pass through different stages (hearings, medical examination, etc.) and are in relation with different actors of the procedure (FOM-officers, FAT-judges, doctors, legal advisors, others asylum seekers, etc.) that are implicated in the construction of their asylum case. My contribution aims to analyze how asylum seekers construct their asylum narrative throughout the different negotiations processes with those actors. It looks at how they acquire new knowledge and resources and use strategies to produce narrative that could make them eligible for protection. It explores the different contexts and interactional settings in which the operations conducted on the asylum seekers stories take place. Since the productions of their narratives correspond to expected regimes of eligibility, I look at how applicants perceive and understand the Swiss asylum system and the actors involved in the procedure, as well as their ideas of eligibility, in order to analyze the implications these perceptions have on their choices and actions. In conducting my research, I take on the perspective of "bureaucratic paths", following asylum seekers through different stages of their procedures. It allows me to pay attention to the temporal dimension of the asylum procedure and to analyze the different steps of the process through which their stories are turned into narratives that might fit the expectations of the authorities.

The governance of voluntariness: assisted voluntary return migration as law enforcement through self-responsibility

Author: David Loher (University of Bern)  email

Short Abstract

In recent years, programs for assisted voluntary return (AVR) have gained importance in the context of European states' migration policies. The paper examines how the image of "the good, yet illegal, migrant" is mobilized to create eligibility and subordinate migrants' autonomy to the migration regime.

Long Abstract

The governance of undesired aliens' mobility takes several forms: visa policies, border controls, and compulsory returns are just the most prominent ones among others. Overshadowed by these mostly coercive practices that are highly controversial in public debates, programs for assisted voluntary return (AVR) have introduced a different mode how the state governs mobile practices. AVR programs address the migrant as a self-responsible subject.

Two observations form the starting point for the argument in this paper: First, eligibility in the context of the AVR programs refers back to the image of "the good, yet illegal, migrant". Only the docile, cooperative, and non-criminal migrant is eligible to join the program. And second, AVR programs enforce law, not through coercion, but in addressing migrants as self-responsible subjects. The obligation to leave the country due to not being granted any residence permit is enforced not through compulsory return, but through financial incentives for a so-called voluntary return. In this perspective, AVR programs can be read as an attempt to dissolve the antagonism between state sovereignty and migrants' autonomy.

Drawing on ethnographic material on Switzerland's AVR program to Tunisia, the paper reconstructs how the AVR program turns destitute migrants into self-responsible small entrepreneurs during the whole process of the so-called voluntary return to their country of origin. It then analyses the specific relationship between migrant and the state, which the AVR program produces. And finally, it argues that eligibility and accountability replace rights and obligations in this relationship between state and migrant.

South African land restitution and the contested eligibility of white claimants

Author: Olaf Zenker (University of Fribourg)  email

Short Abstract

Focussing on the contested eligibility of white land claims, this paper analyses the South African land restitution process as a fateful zone of contestation, in which the terms of a new South African moral community are negotiated.

Long Abstract

South African land restitution, in which the post-apartheid state compensates victims of "racial" land dispossession, has been intimately linked to former homelands: prototypical claims consist of communities that lost their rights in land when being forcibly relocated to reserves and now aspire to return to home and lands from their despised "homelands". However, white farmers, who were also dispossessed (although usually compensated) by the apartheid state in the latter's endeavour to consolidate existing homelands, have lodged restitution claims as well. While the Land Claims Court has principally accepted such restitution claims as eligible and ordered upon the merits of individual cases, state bureaucrats, legal activists as well as other members of the public have categorically questioned and challenged such claiming of land rights by whites. Focussing on a number of white land claims related to the built-up of former KwaNdebele, this paper investigates the contested field of moral entitlements as emergent from divergent discourses about true victims and beneficiaries of apartheid. It pays particular attention to land claims pertaining to the western frontier of KwaNdebele - the wider Rust-de-Winter area, which used to be white farmland expropriated in the mid-1980s for consolidation (that never occurred) and currently vegetates as largely neglected no-man's-(state-)land under multiple land claims. Being the point of reference for state officials, former white farmers, Ndebele traditionalists, local residents and other citizens and subjects, this homeland frontier is hence analysed as a fateful zone of contestation, in which the terms of a new South African moral community are negotiated.

Everyday life, debt and death: an ethnographic account of vulnerability in north Dublin

Author: Caitríona Coen (NUI,Maynooth, Ireland)  email

Short Abstract

My fieldwork considers the culturally encouraged collaboration between the citizen, the property market and the state and the dissolution of that relationship when poor building regulation and inept local government turned consumers into victims.

Long Abstract

During the Celtic Tiger period in Ireland there occurred a historical shift in eligibility of homeownership. Today many of these new mortgage holders are experiencing those ramifications. My anthropological fieldwork considers how this change became a stranglehold for sixty families. In this paper, I use ethnography to understand how people's eligibility for homeownership caused their complete social vulnerability. This vulnerability was constructed from poor building regulation, inept local government, a strained judicial system and failure to rally significant public support. The residents of The Priory Hall apartment complex located in north County Dublin, Ireland became homeless due to fire safety issues. At the time of their evacuation no resident was in mortgage arrears. For two years they were involuntarily embroiled in a carousel of state bureaucracy. They were abandoned by the very state agencies tasked with protecting the 'family home'. A suicide was necessary to see a resolution offered. My work considers the politics of 'eligibility' by considering the ways in which my research participants went from being private home owners, an "ideal" citizen in contemporary Ireland, to the neo-disposed. Methodologically, one of my greatest challenges was interacting with a group of people who had become quite media savvy and well known nationally. They avoided me for a time as my research was neither immediate exposure nor a fast track to a resolution process. Here, my years of training both practically and theoretically enabled me to both defuse tense situations and negotiate delicately and respectfully.

Territorializing asylum in bureaucratic practices of 'eligibility'

Author: Ephraim Poertner (University of Zurich)  email

Short Abstract

To establish what constitutes a human ‘eligible’ for protection, asylum bureaucrats regularly invoke ‘territories of persecution’ as delimited spaces of eligibility. In turn, these territories are mapped on and enforced through the body of asylum subjects – entailing a momentous territorialization of asylum.

Long Abstract

In the asylum apparatus in Switzerland, which seemingly is in constant transformation and response to crisis of some sorts, state bureaucrats daily encounter asylum-seekers and consider what constitutes a human 'eligible' for protection. I explore the manifold criteria of eligibility carved out in asylum law and institutional frameworks and the deliberation of bureaucrats in asylum case- and decision-making. While the asylum bureaucracy is constantly re-organized and legal categories shift, encounters of bureaucrats with asylum claimants and/or their 'entextualized' stories continuously revolve around the dialogical establishment of the credibility of persecution narratives, their fit with the refugee definition and potential impediments to repatriation. In these encounters, bureaucrats are imagining deservingness and vulnerability, but also what I call 'territories of persecution'. They spatialize asylum by invoking territories associated with knowable persecution scenarios and respective criteria and narratives of eligibility. I argue that these encounters even entail a distinctive mapping and enforcement of territory through the body - a territorialization of asylum and its subjects. Drawing on anthropological fieldwork on everyday decision- and case-making practices inside the Swiss asylum bureaucracy, I point out the crucial effects of such a territorialization: how it reworks moral frames of eligibility and leads to a depoliticization of both the body- and geo-politics of asylum.

"Deserving to be believed in": credibility determination in Swiss asylum bureaucracies

Author: Laura Affolter (University of Bern)  email

Short Abstract

This paper examines how state officials in Swiss asylum bureaucracies assess the credibility of asylum claims. It looks at criteria used by officials to take and justify such decisions and what evidence they deem eligible for basing their decisions on.

Long Abstract

In Switzerland, before deciding whether an asylum seeker corresponds to the refugee definition according to article 3 of the Asylum Act, state officials assess the credibility of asylum claims. Credibility is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as "the quality of being believed in" or, in other words, it means deservingness of being believed in. But how do officials decide who deserves to be believed in? In my contribution, I examine how article 7 of the Swiss Asylum Act, which defines credibility (or rather the lack of it), is applied in practice by two state bureaucracies, the Federal Office of Migration and the Federal Administrative Tribunal. On the basis of empirical material from observations of asylum hearings and state officials' daily work, interviews with clerks and judges in both institutions, as well as asylum dossiers, I analyse criteria used by the officials to take and justify these decisions. I look at how they produce evidence - both in interaction with asylum seekers and other participants of the asylum hearings, as well as with co-workers and superiors - to base their decisions on and also to adhere their own professional credibility. Furthermore, I elaborate on what I have termed "feeling credibility". Often decisions are initiated by intuition, but then the law is used to frame these feelings and to give justifications to them. In this paper, I attempt to identify common assumptions these intuitions are based on and examine how officials go about legally framing their feelings about the credibility of a claim.

Credibility assessment and construction of 'credible' asylum cases by legal advisors: the role of medical arguments

Author: Johanna Fuchs (University of Bern )  email

Short Abstract

This paper explores how legal advisors decide to take on an asylum case in order to defend it against the Swiss authorities. It examines how legal advisors, in interaction with asylum seekers and medical doctors, assess the credibility of an asylum case.

Long Abstract

In Switzerland, following a negative decision from the Federal Office for Migration, asylum seekers may submit an appeal to the Swiss Federal Administrative Court. Legal advice officers or lawyers can assist asylum seekers during the appellant procedure. However, this is not an automatism: Previous to constituting an appeal to the court - in order to convince the authorities about the reliability of the case and to prove the veritableness of persecution in the country of origin - legal officers decide if they are willing to take on the case of the applicant or not. As the majority of the negative decisions are based on the lack of credibility by the authorities, this criterion plays an important role in the daily work of legal advisors and influences their decision on whether they are taking on a case or not. Relying my analysis on empirical material, written documents (e.g. appeals, medical certificates) interviews and participant observation, I examine how legal officers, in interaction with asylum seekers and experts, define credibility and the lack of credibility and what meanings are ascribed to these concepts. My contribution aims to elaborate on the role of medical arguments regarding these concepts and how legal advisors and doctors interact in order to define and constitute a 'credible case'. Furthermore, I tend to show how legal advisors' and doctors' perception of and dealings with credibility may rub off on their own institutional and professional credibility.

The language of truth against fraud: DNA analysis for family reunification in Finland

Author: Anna-Maria Tapaninen (University of Eastern Finland)  email

Short Abstract

The proposed paper discusses the use of DNA testing for family reunification in Finland. In the absence of acceptable documents, the ‘DNA truth’ and narrative proof are weighed together in order to include only true families and exclude others.

Long Abstract

Family reunification has become a major 'channel' to Europe. The right to family is a recognized principle yet the eligibility of family members and the authenticity of the claimed family ties are increasingly contested. In the quest for truth, the ideas of true families and of ubiquitous fraud are dealt with when evaluating the credibility of applicants. As many applicants, especially asylum seekers, lack acceptable identity documents or marriage and birth certificates, they are subjected to other investigations to prove the alleged family ties. In addition to the narrative proof of interviews, DNA analysis has become commonly and in many cases quite routinely used. Today, at least 20 countries around the world have incorporated DNA testing into decision-making on family reunification cases. In the world of suspicion and insecurities, DNA analysis stands out because of its exact and objective nature that is expressed in the abstract language of probabilities. The proposed paper looks at the interplay of documents, narratives and biotechnologies, especially DNA profiling, in immigration control in Finland from the points of view of officials, lawyers, geneticists and the people concerned. The dialogical, shifting constitution of credibility is approached via documents, interviews and court cases.

Of forged documents and lack of written evidence: tracing eligibility in Rohingya asylum cases

Author: Judith Beyer (University of Konstanz)  email

Short Abstract

The paper discusses the difficulties of tracing eligibility in Rohingya asylum cases in the UK. It pays attention to the collaborative role of country of origin expertise and explores the possibility of moral decision-making by anthropologists who are engaged in this legal arena.

Long Abstract

In order to successfully seek asylum in the UK, a person must match the eligibility requirements as a refugee spelled out by the 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. The first requirement is that the person must have left the country (s)he is a national of, or, if (s)he is stateless, the country (s)he usually lives in. (S)he must also be unable to go back to this country because (s)he fears persecution; this persecution must be because of the person's ethnicity, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership of a particular social group. Eligibility is measured on a case-to-case basis and immigration officers and legal caseworkers grapple with the interpretation of written and oral evidence provided by the person seeking asylum, in order to determine whether (s)he meets these requirements.

The paper investigates the particularities of Rohingya asylum cases in first-tier tribunals in the UK. Rohingya are among the most persecuted stateless people worldwide and rarely possess documents that could prove their eligibility for refugee protection and consequentially asylum. The paper discusses the difficulties of tracing eligibility in the absence of written documentation, paying particular attention to the collaborative role of anthropological country of origin expertise whose 'intimate knowledge' is being sought. The paper also investigates the possibility of moral decision-making by anthropologists who are engaged in this legal arena and who have a chance to inform judicial understandings of crucial categories such as 'ethnicity' or 'nationality' whose interpretation often determine the outcome of a case.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.