Bureaucratic encounters in German immigration offices
Anna Louban (University of Konstanz)
Paper short abstract:
Immigration to a western country is a highly bureaucratic act. Based on a seven month long ethnographic fieldwork in the largest immigration office in Germany this paper presents the socio-cultural practices prevailing in this context.
Paper long abstract:
Immigration to a western country is a highly bureaucratic act. In fact, entering a 'new' state for residency purposes sets off an avalanche of administrative actions to be performed by the immigrants as well as by the civil servants working in immigration authorities. The paper inquires on daily interactions in the largest immigration office in Germany. It focuses on bureaucratic and non-bureaucratic practices approached by the involved subjects in everyday encounters of immigrants and civil servants. Immigrants have to successfully pass three different kinds of encounters in order to ensure their legal status. (a) The encounter with porters who are positioned next to the only entrance of the authority's terrain. (b) The registration clerks greet immigrants and process their requests in a bureaucratic manner based on the priority of the matter (c) the clerks who are responsible for making the decision whether the person sitting in front of them will be allowed to stay in Germany or not. Based on a seven month long ethnographic fieldwork in 2012 and 2013 during the opening hours of the largest immigration office in Germany this paper presents the socio-cultural practices prevailing in this context. This micro approach reveals different facets of interaction between those who work for the state and those who seek legal recognition from this state. This approach allows to develop an alternative notion of bureaucracy based on empirical research and therefore contribute on an analytical level to the anthropology of bureaucracy.
The anthropology of public services and bureaucracies