Interrupted Journeys – Disrupted Control. Male Migrants with Precarious Legal Status and the European Migration Regime

Wyss, Anna (2019). Interrupted Journeys – Disrupted Control. Male Migrants with Precarious Legal Status and the European Migration Regime (Unpublished). (Dissertation, Institut für Soziologie, WISO)

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Despite increasingly sophisticated border controls and public pressure for ever more effective migration controls, unwanted migrants continue to arrive, defying European states’ attempts to keep them out. This thesis is an ethnography of male migrants with precarious legal status in Europe. It traces the interrupted journeys of some of those many migrants classified as ‘unwanted’ and denied legal residence who stay and endure the harsh living conditions and hostile political rhetoric they are subjected to. The thesis provides a nuanced and sensitive portrait of an often-demonized group of migrants who enter Europe unauthorized or by seeking asylum, though with little or no chance to obtain refugee status.
The thesisaddresses the pressing question of how – and at what costs – migrants with precarious legal status navigate the migration regime on their journeys throughout Europe. The study seeks to understand the consequences and implications of migrants’ everyday resistance both for themselves and for migration governance. Crucially, the focus on migrants’ practices and narratives goes beyond a single nation-state and reveals the ineptitude of limiting research to actors in one country. Instead, the longitudinal and multi-sited research design allows capturing the inherent transnationalism at play when it comes to migrant practices, consequences of supranational policies and national policies. Based on in-depth ethnography of one and a half years, the thesis thus investigates the interrelationship between the European migration regime and individual migrants. By ‘following’ some key interlocutors on their journeys throughout Europe, it demonstrates how individual migrants disrupt the smooth implementation of migration law and how, at the same time, their aspirations and plans are continuously interrupted by migration control attempts, which cause sincere suffering on the level of individual migrants.
This thesis foregrounds individual migrants’ agency, which is rarely considered in policy-making. By zooming in on mobile people’s everyday practices, the thesis demonstrates how migrants take active part in the constitution of the European migration regime. Whereas several publications have analysed the migration regime from an ethnographic perspective, only few studies have put an explicit focus on migrant tactics as a disruptive element to the smooth functioning of migration control practices. Thus, it contributes to debates on why migration policies fail by considering migrants’ everyday resistance.
Importantly, the thesis acknowledges the gendered dimension of male migration. It does so from an intersectional perspective by considering also racialized aspects of representation and the legal status people hold. Furthermore, it demonstrates how the negative representation of unwanted male migrants mostly from North and West African countries fuel calls for repressive policy making and impact the way law is implemented.

Item Type:

Thesis (Dissertation)


03 Faculty of Business, Economics and Social Sciences > Social Sciences > Institute of Sociology

UniBE Contributor:

Wyss, Anna


300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology




Anna Wyss

Date Deposited:

16 Jun 2021 11:45

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 15:50


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