Bureaucratic Bordering


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On paper, Eastern Europeans from, e.g., Bulgaria, Croatia, Poland, and Romania are considered EU citizens. In reality, they are systematically degraded. In a perfidious interplay among authorities, employers and placement agencies, a bureaucratic bordering is staged that makes a dignified life practically impossible. At the same time, the degraded migrants are indispensable for the labor market, especially in Germany. Social theorist and activist Polina Manolova reports in her “Black Box East” video talk from an EU that celebrates freedom of movement but where, above all, precarization and injustice rule. Exploring how during the Covid-19 pandemic these deadly contradictions are coming to a crisis, she urges us to understand that mobile laborers from Bulgaria, for instance, cannot simply be depicted as victims of an exploitative and dehumanizing regime. Instead, it is key to see how they are managing to organize themselves in loose networks of solidarity and care, without which survival would not be possible.

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