Abstract 8/15: Anne-Marlen Engler (Humboldt University Berlin) – German Refugee Shelters

#StatEx2017
#StatEx2017

Carl Schmitt shaped the idea of a conjunction of sovereignty and the state of exception. Whereas Schmitt conceptualizes the state of exception as a state of exception, Giorgio Agamben broadens the concept and introduces a permanent state of exception as experienced in the camp – which he thinks of as the nomos of modernity. Within the camp, the sovereign rules over the inhabitants by way of reducing them to naked life. However, the state of exception is by no means a dictatorship; it is a lawless space [1].

My research project queries if German refugee shelters can be described as such lawless spaces in which the state of exception has become a quotidian reality. When arriving at the emergency shelters, the refugees have already undergone a first step of an integration by process [2]: they have been registered by the German authorities. Furthermore, in theory, they have access to human rights as well as German law. However, reports about detentions in mass shelters which last for months or abuses by the security personnel seem to confirm a situation which the American academic Ayten Gündoğdu has called “Rightlesness in an Age of Rights“. My research project wants to identify to what degree the refugees find themselves in “a bureaucratic situation similar to Kafkas castle” [3] and whether their access to law is hindered by arbitrary actions of the private shelter companies. My research work is based on the idea that the concept of the state of exception cannot convincingly explain the situation in the camps since it does not consider the coexistence of a legal regulation and a de facto lawlessness.

In the Colloquium “Ausnahmezustand. Eine Bestandsaufnahme”, I will present the first empirical results of my research project. In a pilot study, I have started to collect data with the help of structured interviews and field reports. The research field is an emergency shelter in a former airport in Berlin Neukölln which accommodates 1450 refugees at the moment. Orienting towards my research question, I interviewed four different status groups (social workers, refugees, lawyers and administration workers); special focus will be on the interviews with refugees as they are the ones affected by German housing politics.

[1] Agamben, Ausnahmezustand, S. 62.

[2] Luhmann, Legitmität durch Verfahren, S.94f.

[3] Gündoğdu, Rightlessness in an Age of Rights, S. 203.


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