An Afterlife of Crisis –

Crisis-talk has been a salient feature of a new millennium, often connected in one way or another to mobility or migration. The escalation of refugees and asylum seekers in Europe in 2015 – often referred to as “refugee crisis” – was heavily mediated in the press. Furthermore, current populist trends in both Europe and the US rely on negative depictions of migrants. In this event, we focus on the afterlife of a crisis – is “the” crisis over and then for whom? What did the crisis mean and how was it connected with questions about the future? What does it mean to live in times that are perceived as “after” or “post” crisis?

These and related questions will be discussed during the seminar organized by Mobilities and Transnational Iceland project on Friday, 29 November, 2019; 12:00-15:00 in the Þjóðminjasafn Íslands (Icelandic National Museum). Invited speakers Scott Youngstedt, Professor of Anthropology at Saginaw Valley State University and Felix Ringel, Assistant Professor at the Durham University, will address this topic from their own research in Niger and Germany. Kristín Loftsdóttir, Professor of Anthropology at the University of Iceland chairs the seminar.


12:00 – 12:10 Kristín Lofstdóttir, Introduction

12:10 – 12:50 Felix Ringel, Living and Anticipating the Afterlife of (Out-) Migration: Examples from two Postindustrial German Cities

Abstract: Hoyerswerda, Germany’s fastest shrinking city, has been in crisis ever since the the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. That is what many inhabitants of the German Democratic Republic’s former second socialist model city claim. By 2009, the city had lost more than half its population, and more than a third of its cityscape had already been demolished. The then recent financial crisis, a huge concern all over the world, bothered the city comparatively little. What counted more was the question of what would come after the structural crisis. When, indeed, does shrinkage end? Incidentally, the first time the city’s population rose again was in 2015, at the height of the European ‘refugee crisis’, due to the arrival of several hundred refugees. At the same time, I was doing fieldwork in Bremerhaven, Germany’s poorest city and once West Germany’s fastest shrinking city, where the local citizenry tried to accommodate large numbers of refugees in the postindustrial excess infrastructure the city so prominently featured. Here, too, expectations of the end of the crisis dominated public discourses. This presentation will address the role predictions of the future play in conceptualising a ‘crisis’. It will explore the politics of expectations and contrast them to the lived reality of living in, and managing, a crisis. By unpacking the temporal logic of these practices, I will ask which role the anthropologists should play in response to contemporary crisis talks.

12:50 – 13:30 Scott Youngstedt, Leaving, Returning, Passing Through, and Staying in Niger: Real and Manufactured Migration Crises

In this presentation, I will begin with an overview contemporary migration from, to, and through Niger.  Niger has long been a country of emigration.  Due to recent regional and global geopolitical developments, Niger has become a place of immigration and international transit migration.  Governments of Europe and the U.S. have created fears of a migration crisis and developed policies including externalizing borders or outsourcing border control to combat it.  For example, I will argue that the IOM’s agenda in Niger and Libya has been largely to keep Africans out of Europe–that the IOM is essentially acting as a tool of the EU, pushing the southern border of Europe to Niger.  In addition, states are taking direct action to do the same.  The U.S., Germany, Italy, and of course, France (they never left), now have military bases in Niger.  Ostensibly they are there to combat terrorism, but their other primary mission is stop clandestine migration across the Sahara en route to Europe. Indeed, the two missions are conflated, as they tend to view all migrants in the Sahara as potential terrorists. These policies have not stopped migration from or through Niger, but have made it more difficult and costly. Among other things, this has led to the new strategy of migration to South America from where increasing numbers of Nigérien and other West and Central Africans are traveling overland to the U.S. border seeking to apply for asylum or to enter the country clandestinely.  Using the threat of imposing tariffs on Mexican imports, the U.S. has pressured Mexico to militarize its northern and southern borders to stem the flow of migrants.  As a result, in the past few months at least 5,000 African migrants have been apprehended and placed in detention camps in southern Mexico just north of the border with Guatemala, where they remain stranded in limbo.

13:30 – 13:45 Kristín Loftsdóttir, Brief reflections on crisis and the future

13:45-14:00. Discussions and questions