1st Edition

Lives in Transit An Ethnographic Study of Refugees’ Subjectivity across European Borders

By Elena Fontanari Copyright 2019
    292 Pages
    by Routledge

    292 Pages 13 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book explores the border-crossing mobilities of refugees within Europe. Based on ethnographic fieldwork in Germany and Italy, it examines the precarious everyday lives of non-citizens living between and beyond EU internal borders. With attention to the constant re-construction of borders within Europe through negotiation practices, the author shows how the tensions that exist between refugees on the move and the structural constraints that limit their movement produce ‘interstices’ – small spaces of possibility that open up as a result of refugees’ struggling within structural constraints. A comprehensive understanding of the long-term effects of EU borders upon refugees’ lives is then afforded through a particular focus on the post-arrival period. Examining the protracted precariousness and multi-directional hyper-mobility in Europe that emerges from the dynamics of the relation between structural mechanisms and the agency of individuals, Lives in Transit reveals how the border regime in Europe impacts mostly upon the temporal rather than the spatial dimensions of refugees’ lives, affecting their subjectivities and sense of self. This ‘dispossession’ of time is advocated as the main problem with the experience of refugees in Europe, causing them to claim a temporal justice, which seeks to gain back control of their own lives and personhood. Calling for migration to be understood as a process of ‘becoming subjects’, this volume will appeal to scholars of sociology, anthropology, and politics with interests in migration and diaspora studies.


    Part I: The Historical Context: Asylum in Europe

    1. Asylum on the Move. The Humanitarian-Security Border Regime in Europe

    2. A Turbulent Sea. From the Arab Spring to the Berliner Herbst

    Part II: The Ethnographic Journey: Into the Refugeness

    3. Temporalities. Fragmented Mobility and Disrupted Time in the Everyday Life of Refugees

    4. Interstices. Living Between and Beyond the Borders

    5. Becoming Subjectivity in Transit. Feelings, Emotions, and Everyday Practices

    Conclusion. Which Europe, for Whom?




    Elena Fontanari is currently a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Sociology at the University of Milan, Italy. She has a PhD in Sociology, Doctor Europaeus, from the University of Milan and Institute of European Ethnology, Humboldt University of Berlin. She is part of the editorial board of the journal Etnografia e Ricerca Qualitativa (edited by Il Mulino, Bologna), and she is a co-founder of the CRC (Coordinated Research Centre) Escapes, a critical research network about forced migration, at the University of Milan. She is an activist in support of refugees and migrants and has worked on several projects with non-governmental organizations in both Italy and Germany. She regularly gives talks about the topic of refugees and Europe’s borders in universities, public lectures, and lectures that are a part of professional training courses.