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  • Immobility beyond borders: Differential inclusion and the impact of the COVID-19 border closures

    This article discusses differential inclusion as it relates to mobility in Europe through migrants’ experiences of the closure of the European Union (EU) Schengen borders during the COVID-19 pandemic. Based on 36 comparative online interviews with three groups of migrants – Erasmus students, asylum seekers and seasonal workers – the article empirically investigates how differential inclusion is reflected in migrants’ perceptions of border closures and the impact of border closures on international mobility. Drawing on the concept of differential inclusion, I examine the divergent border mobilities in a moment of crisis. In the interviews, migrants’ reflections on borders are informed either by their own perception of borders, their surprise at the lack of awareness of borders for other migrants, or the realisation that closed borders are crossed for capitalist economic demands under high health risks. Taking this as its basis, the article makes two arguments. First, that preexisting differential inclusion exacerbated during border closures in a global health emergency. Second, that borders are not concrete but flexible in (im)mobilising people according to capitalist economic demands. In this way, the article contributes to an understanding of the process of rebordering that took place during COVID-19 and in which borders remained spaces of differentiation.

  • A corona-carnival? A carnivalesque interpretation of (im)mobilities under COVID-19 lockdowns

    The soviet social theorist Mikhail M. Bakhtin developed the theory of the carnivalesque as a logic of exaggeration, inversion and irony. Beyond carnival events themselves, Bakhtin proposed this logic as a creative instance to foresee openings within an assumed normality. The conceptual gaze of the ‘carnivalesque’ helps to rethink the reconfiguration of actors and practices around mobility, borders and migration during the initial lockdowns of the COVID-19 pandemic. This impasse worked as a corona-carnival in the midst of the current mobility regime. The use of ‘carnivalesque’ in this article is not related to the playful aspects of carnival as a parade, but to the potential of the carnivalesque impasse for envisioning alternatives, which are not necessarily emancipatory but deeply ambivalent, grotesque and unfinished. That carnivalesque momentum, marked by social norms placed on pause, is captured in artistic and linguistic production, acting as a collective legacy for imagining futures otherwise. This paper compiles some keywords which emerged during the corona-carnival impasse, each holding hopeful and dystopian glimpses of possible alterations to the status-quo. These linguistic productions question assumed notions and practices of migration management, opening the social imagination to other ways of engaging with human mobilities.

  • Governed bodies, discarded bodies: Notes for an analysis of contemporary migrations during Covid-19

    This article presents the results of an ethnographic research conducted in the northern border of Mexico from 2019 to 2021, specifically in the city of Tijuana. The objective of this article is to analyse the role of bodies in border and migration management with special emphasis on the time of the Covid-19 pandemic. To do so, I focus on three situations. First is the case of migrants whose bodies are exploited in the precarious work opportunities they find along Mexico’s northern border. Second, I look at migrants who experience detention and confinement in Customs and Border Protection (CBP) detention centres in the United States. And third, I analyse the situation of missing migrants whose bodies are sought by family members and numerous collectives in Mexico. Through the analysis of these situations, the article demonstrates that by using ‘bodies’ as a productive category for analysing migration and the containment of migratory movements, we can understand both the resulting negative effects on migrants’ subjectivity and bodies and how migrants respond to and challenge the global migration system.

  • The ‘Long Spring’ of migration management: Labour supply in the pandemic-induced EU border regime

    Pandemic-induced border lockdowns in the spring of 2020 severely disrupted the migrant-labour supply in Western EU economies. This disruption of the EU border regime took place for different, even opposite reasons than the so-called ‘crisis’ of 2015, which is also known as the ‘long summer’ of migration. Indeed, where the latter originated from migrants’ massive appropriation of mobility, the disruption of 2020 resulted from state-imposed restrictions on mobility. However, by comparatively analysing two models of work organisation in the agro-industrial sector, characterised by a strong reliance on mobile labour and thus particularly affected by the border lockdowns of 2020 (harvest of crops in Italy and meat processing in the Netherlands), I argue that states’ response to the disruption of border regime in 2020 relied on a pre-existing logistical approach in migration management, adopted in the aftermath of 2015. More specifically, during the pandemic the ethical minimalism intrinsic in the logistical approach allowed a decoupling of migrant workers’ right to mobility, on one hand, and social and economic rights, on the other, thus resulting in increased discipline in the workplace, exposure to infections, exploitation, and dependency on the employer, to which migrant workers opposed more or less visible forms of resistance.

  • The capitalist virus

    Borders and mobilities have played key roles in the transformations of capitalism that have accompanied the COVID-19 pandemic. We attempt to distinguish novel developments in the control of movements of bodies, labour, and capital from processes of renationalisation, financialisation, and platformisation that were in train before the outbreak. Focusing on logistical techniques and technologies that govern the global circulation of people and things, this article explores the spatial shifts and ruptures that have marked the capitalist crisis occasioned by the pandemic. We give empirical attention to movements and struggles of migration in China, India, the Americas, and the Mediterranean.

  • Seasonal workers wanted! Germany’s seasonal labour migration regime and the COVID-19 pandemic

    The COVID-19 pandemic publicly exposed the urgent need for seasonal workers in agriculture. In Germany, an entry ban and entry quotas for seasonal workers at the beginning of the pandemic caused major attention. Taking this moment as magnifying glass, the article asks how the German seasonal labour migration regime is constructed (legally) and legitimated (discursively), and in how far the pandemic has caused shifts within this regime. Based on an analysis of the legal framework and the political discourse around seasonal work from 2018 to 2020 in Germany, the seasonal labour migration regime is characterised as just-in-time migration tailored to the needs of agricultural business, where migrants’ work force is not absorbed homogenously by precarious labour sectors, but rather specific groups of migrant workers are integrated differently through mechanisms of differential inclusion. Within this regime, seasonal workers function as outsourced labour, whose reproduction costs remain abroad. On the discursive level, the article shows how seasonal workers are produced as ‘wanted migrants’ by linking seasonal migration to the interests of the ‘homeland’. While the pandemic momentarily caused some shifts on the discoursively level, the article shows that the seasonal labour regime as a whole remains rather stable in time.

  • COVID capitalism: The contested logistics of migrant labour supply chains in the double crisis

    The introduction to the special issue (SI) lays out the agenda and key concepts of the SI ‘COVID Capitalism: The Contested Logistics of Migrant Labour Supply Chains in the Double Crisis’. The contributions to the SI focus on the reconfiguration of the means and methods of the exploitation of migrant labour during the COVID-19 pandemic and the related reorganisation of contemporary border and migration regimes. They all focus, more or less explicitly, on the adaptation and reorganisation of migrant labour supply chains which were disrupted through the ‘double crisis’ of public health and existing border and mobility regimes during the COVID-19 pandemic. In this way, the SI seeks to contribute to a more nuanced understanding of COVID-capitalism, understood as a form of disaster capitalism, in which fractions of capital try to turn the multiple crises implicated by the pandemic into a source of profit. If and how they succeed with these endeavours is, however, not guaranteed from the outset but an empirical question. The study of migrant labour supply chains does thus not only help to develop a more nuanced understanding of disaster capitalism but also contributes to debates on the logistification of migration management.

  • Venezuelan migrants in delivery platform work during the COVID-19 pandemic in Buenos Aires, Argentina: Between exploitability, precariousness, and daily resistance

    In this article, we analyse the working conditions of Venezuelan migrants, who participate in delivery work in Argentina, based on a conceptual discussion on the ‘precarisation’ processes of migrant workers in the countries of the global south. The labour conditions of workers in South America have historically deteriorated for several decades, but its effects have intensified after the COVID-19 pandemic. This analysis is focused on the dynamics of Venezuelan migrant labour within digital platforms in Buenos Aires, contrasting data obtained between 2019 and 2020 from two surveys and interviews conducted with this population. Drawing upon contributions from the sociology of migration and the sociology of work, this article seeks to understand how irregularised migrants employed in the platform work, at the intersection of super-exploitation and super-exposure to contagion, have been brutally affected by the expansion of delivery work.

  • Economic and mobility repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Chile–Bolivia border

    This article analyzes how the pandemic caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) has impacted international migration. In particular, we compare the mobility and economic repercussions faced by Bolivian and Venezuelan migrants. We conducted 16 semi-structured interviews with migrants who requested legal and social support and advice provided by the Open Assembly of Migrants and Pro-Migrants of Tarapacá, Chile (AMPRO), an organisation dedicated to defending migrant rights. The Bolivian interviewees worked in Chile before the pandemic in the city of Iquique (close to the Bolivian border). The Venezuelan interviewees are undocumented people in transit who entered Chile during the pandemic. Through this comparison, we describe the economic repercussions on the everyday life, mobility, and survival strategies of people in transit, transboundary workers, and migrants with transnational families, and reveal a realignment of Chile’s border regime that benefits post-pandemic capitalism. Furthermore, we clarify how the health restrictions implemented due to the pandemic have favoured the reconfiguration of the border regime imposed in Chile, through a racist immigration policy based on the control and management of migration, leading to a greater irregularization of migration.

  • Do people in authoritarian countries have lower standards when evaluating their governments? An anchoring vignettes approach

    Why do people in authoritarian countries think more positively of their governments than people in democratic countries? Existing research suggests three explanations: (1) people in authoritarian countries lie; (2) people in authoritarian countries are indoctrinated; and (3) authoritarian governments have better performance than their democratic counterparts. In this study, I explore a fourth explanation – people in authoritarian countries apply lower standards. To test it, I apply the anchoring vignettes method developed by Gary King and others to original data from China, Vietnam, Russia, Mexico, and the United States, and from the cities of Beijing and Taipei. Adding a case study of Taiwan’s economic trajectory as a robustness check, I conclude that people in authoritarian countries tend to use lower standards when reporting political trust and government responsiveness, but the lower standards are likely to be caused by fast economic growth rather than authoritarianism.

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