My Interests in a Nutshell


My intellectual roots go back to my training as a social anthropologist in the 1990s. During my studies, I was inspired by many feminist, postcolonial, nationalism and ethnicity scholars and their critique of, among other things, the essentialist use of the notions of culture, ethnicity, or migrants. Also formative for me was the work of 'women from the South' who began to strongly criticize Western liberal feminists for their racist and exclusionary ideas. That's how my journey as a social scientist began: I tried to understand and theorize the 'work' of categories - such as women/men, foreigners, migrants, nations, 'us' and 'them' - in terms of their embeddedness in systems of power and inequality. I have continued on this path for thirty years, very often in collaboration with great colleagues, always with the aim of figuring out and theorizing how knowledge is produced in the social sciences and under what conditions of power this happens, how inclusion and exclusion function intersectionally and with what consequences, and how mobilities (re)produce new and old social configurations. I am grateful to the many colleagues who have shared their ideas and inspired me during this time. 

 Today, my research is anchored in three different, yet intertwined fields: First, I am interested in reflexivity and knowledge production (in migration studies). I am working on theoretical and methodological approaches that go beyond the nation-state and ethnicity-centered epistemology that still largely characterizes migration studies, and which not only produces certain forms of exclusion but also risks reproducing hegemonic structures. A few years ago, I proposed to 'de-migranticize' research on migration and integration in order to address some of the problems of migration studies. Developing these initial ideas, in my more recent and ongoing work, I consider migranticization as a technology of power and governmentality that is closely linked to nation-state logic and coloniality. I use this analytical approach to examine the use of migration-related categories and their consequences for politics of power and exclusion in a global system of inequalities and nation-states. An example of this work is also my involvement in IMISCOE - the largest European network of migration researchers: I co-chair the standing committee Reflexivities in Migration Studies together with Prof. Andreas Pott, University of Osnabrück. 

Secondly, my work contributes to what might be called "the social organization of 'difference'". I show how so-called 'diversity' is socially organized and (re)produced, both relationally and in the interaction between 'us' and 'them', in different social fields, power constellations, by different actors, and with different outcomes. Using a micro-sociological approach and drawing on intersectional boundary work approaches, I demonstrate how processes of exclusion, both structural and symbolic, are produced, maintained, and transformed in the name of "culture", "gender (equality) and gender nativism" or nationality. In doing so,  I argue for de-essentialized approaches within the social sciences. My insights into this complex of issues have an impact not only in academia but also directly in society. I see myself as a "public social scientist" and contribute to public and political debates through my presence in the media, by organizing exhibitions (most recently on the question of how Swissness is produced in naturalization processes), or through blog posts (most recently on gender and care and sex work). I consider it an achievement to contribute to debates on 'otherness' from a critical perspective in a wider public and political sphere. 

Finally, the field of mobility and migration studies: Firstly, I have made a significant contribution to the theorization of the migration-mobility nexus, which is at the heart of nccr on the move, of which I am an IP Leader. The mobility perspective helps me to elaborate on how individual mobilities are embedded and entangled in asymmetrical power relations. This perspective also allows me to uncover the inequalities and interdependencies caused and shaped by global inequalities and different mobility regimes. Secondly, as I have shown, a mobility lens is also theoretically interesting for other issues, such as understanding public marketplaces, questions of belonging to a peripheralized valley, or gendered aspects of early career academics. In this way, I make a larger contribution to social theory, which has been shown to suffer from a "sedentary" or "anti-mobile" epistemological orientation.