Refugee “Crises” and Methodological Challenges: The Pursuit of Public Anthropology in Austria
(Austrian Academy of Sciences)
Paper short abstract:
Austria is one of the European Union countries accommodating the highest numbers of refugees since 2015. Events since then have resulted in many new challenges for local researchers. Where do our tasks as researchers end, while intersecting with our responsibilities as critical citizens?
Paper long abstract:
In absolute numbers as well as by percentage of the resident population, Austria is one of the European Union countries that have accommodated the highest numbers of refugees from the Middle East since 2015.After an initial phase of welcoming support by large sectors of civil society, growing popular concerns were, however, instrumentalized by conservative and nationalist political forces. This has resulted in public discourses reducing each and every political issue to the topic of a “refugee crisis”, and to the takeover of federal government by a conservative-neonationalist coalition. There has been a rapid growth of deportations especially to Afghanistan, and new restrictions on legal procedures. Refugees have become increasingly insecure in relating to other refugees of current and of previous generations, and to their country of refuge. Problems of obtaining refugee status also reinforce and aggravate earlier traumatic ruptures in many lives. All this has resulted in new empirical, methodological and conceptual challenges for local researchers. There are growing ethnographic grey zones between legal and illegal conditions. The transformation of contexts raises questions about "undercover" ethnography and the limits for fieldwork. Where do our own academic potentials fade out, making cooperation with other experts is indispensable? What is legally not too grey, and what is far too grey to be communicated to the media? Where do our tasks as researchers end, while intersecting with our responsibilities as critical citizens?
Migrants, refugees and public anthropology