Migration

Many researchers have criticised generalisations in migration research that often stem from the negligence of questions of milieu and subculture (cf. Romhild 2014, p. 260; Binder and Hess 2011). Regina Romhild emphasises that academia does not need yet another study about migrants but should instead include migrants into regular research (similarly to how Sulzle argues for gender) about questions of society and culture (Romhild 2014, p. 263). In their research on urbanities and migration Nina Click Schiller and Ay§e ^aglar have argued that researching culture through an ‘ethnic lens’ leads inevitably to a one-sided and one-dimensional analysis of social phenomena (Click Schiller and ^aglar 2009, p. 177). In their case, they relate their argument particularly to a failure in examining ‘the dynamic relationship between migrants and the places of migrant departure and settlement’ (ibid., 2009, p. 178).

Social processes that evolve around the phenomenon of ‘migration’ do impact the practices and narratives of Galatasaray and Fenerbahqe fans in Vienna. But in the narratives and practices of these supporters migration is only one constructed social factor that intersects with others that are part of a flexible ‘assemblage’. In accordance with the concept of assemblages that is for example used by Aihwa Ong and Stephen Collier (2005) the inductive approach of this endeavour has proven that qualitative research is always intermingled in certain temporal situations and a great number of contexts that are situated in a flexible framework. These contexts, however, do not just ‘appear’ out of thin air but are also formed by historically grown experiences and hegemonic discourses (Guiterrez Rodriguez 2010, 2011). Only if we historically reflect terms and concepts, such as migration, can we fully understand their social and cultural dimensions in terms of power, agency and oppression.

The term ‘migrant’ itself is vague and can refer to a variety of meanings and concepts. Who is a migrant after all? Is it simply someone who moves to one country from another to work, to study or to reunite with one’s family? Is someone whose grandparents have moved to another country decades ago still a migrant? Aren’t most of us some kind of migrant then? Are the students from Istanbul who appear in this research migrants? Are the people from the Fenerbah^e Pub that were born and raised in Vienna migrants? Am I a migrant because I moved from Germany to Austria to work in a research project? Or am I an expat?

Particularly, when people differentiate between the term ‘expats’ or ‘expatriates’ and the term ‘migrant’ or ‘immigrant’, it becomes clear that these attributions refer to much more than to moving from one place to another. In 2015, Mawuna Remarque Koutonin summarised the inequality that is enclosed in these terms in the British newspaper The Guardian in a simple headline: ‘Why are white people expats when the rest of us are immigrants?’ (theGuardian.com [Koutonin, M. R.] 2015). Koutonin makes it clear that the colour of one’s skin decides on the privileges a migrant has, which is very simple: when migrants are called expats they have privileges, if migrants are called migrants they do not. Here, migrant is constructed as an ethnicised attribution. This goes hand in hand with the constructed intersection of migration and (lower) social class and with, again, ethnicity.

In Regina Romhild’s discussion about academic research on migration, it becomes clear that academia enforces the definition of migrants as poor(er), less educated and often marginalised people and expatriates as rich, well-educated and most importantly ‘white’ people (Romhild 2014, p. 264). This is due to the fact that researchers have extensively focused on the former and neglected the latter in their research agenda. Already in 1969, Laura Nader was pleading to broaden the anthropological perspective from ‘studying down’ to also ‘studying up’ to gain a better understanding of power and responsibilities in society and also to critically reflect on power relations between the researchers and the researched.

[W]e find relatively abundant literature on the poor, the ethnic groups, the disadvantaged; there is comparatively little field research on the middle class and very little first-hand work on the upper classes. Anthropologists might indeed ask themselves whether the entirety of field work does not depend upon a certain power relationship in favor of the anthropologist, and whether indeed such dominant-subordinate relationships may not be affecting the kinds of theories we are weaving. What if, in reinventing anthropology, anthropologists were to study the colonizers rather than the colonized, the culture of power rather than the culture of the powerless, the culture of affluence rather than the culture of poverty? (Nader 1972 [1969], p. 289)

The researcher needs to critically reflect on his or her choice of interview partners and the research field in general. For the case of migration research, ‘studying down’ is thus still a widespread problem. Debates include ethnicising attributions and the factor of social class is mostly left unmentioned. Researchers, media and politics likewise neglect to reflect the crucial category of social class in their analysis of social phenomena.4 When academics only focus on poor(er) migrants or migrant milieus at the margins of society rather than on wealthy and/or well-educated individuals at the top ranks of society - without any discussion of the role of social class in this nexus - then being ‘poor’ becomes sort of a ‘natural’ attribution to migration.

In my research field, the multidimensionality and bias of the term migrant also often led to confusions. Right from the beginning my research included interviewees that were drawn from all different kinds of backgrounds. Many had university degrees while others were working in a factory. The ‘classic’ and one-dimensional definition of a migrant in its intersection with social class would rather refer to the latter. The well- educated ones, of whom some had just recently moved to Vienna, would rather be referred to as ‘expats’ or exchange students. However, according to the very basic definition of ‘migrant’, as someone who moves from one country to another, the latter fall even more clearly under the category of migrant than the ones who were born and have lived in Austria for a long time. Nevertheless, those that might have lived in Vienna for generations are the ones that are predominantly regarded and perceived as migrants. Here, the complexity of the term migrant becomes very obvious.

Some researchers work with the terms ‘migrant’ and ‘postmigrant’ (cf. Kiwan 2007; Wagner 2008). The aim of this distinction is to differentiate between people that recently moved from one country to another and between the ones that have not migrated themselves but whose lives are strongly impacted by the migration of their parents or grandparents. I will use this differentiation only where it is crucial to the analysis because it contains yet another possibility for categorising people in far too simple schemata which reduce people to a migration history.

The intermingling of social class, ethnicity and migration was similarly evident in discussions about my German background in my research field in Vienna. Technically, I am also a migrant in Austria. Saying that though often caused big laughter among my interviewees. Nobody in my research field seriously considered me a migrant. I spoke German as my only mother tongue and worked at a Viennese university. Neither my skin colour, nor my language, nor my social class fit into the widespread definition of what features a migrant ‘should’ have - also from a migrant’s point of view. We can conclude that migration is not simply about mobility, but about many other levels of othering practices and attributions.

 
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