Lives in Transit: An Ethnographic Study of Refugees’ Subjectivity across European Borders, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Lives in Transit

An Ethnographic Study of Refugees’ Subjectivity across European Borders, 1st Edition

By Elena Fontanari


270 pages | 13 B/W Illus.

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Hardback: 9780815377627
pub: 2018-11-19
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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.

Table of Contents


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?



About the Author

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.

About the Series

Studies in Migration and Diaspora

Studies in Migration and Diaspora

Series now in its 20th year

Studies in Migration and Diaspora is a series designed to showcase the interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary nature of research in this important field. Volumes in the series cover local, national and global issues and engage with both historical and contemporary events. The books will appeal to scholars, students and all those engaged in the study of migration and diaspora. Amongst the topics covered are minority ethnic relations, transnational movements and the cultural, social and political implications of moving from 'over there', to 'over here'.

For a limited time only, get 20% off the series with discount code ET20*

* Offer cannot be used in conjunction with any other offer or discount and only applies to books purchased directly via our website.


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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Sociology / General