Dr. Federica Zardo attended the 14th Pan-European Conference on International Relations (EISA), the Power Politics of Nature from 13th to 17th of September 2021. She presented a paper co-authored with Dr. Leila Hadj-Abdou from the University of Vienna on “Migration categories and the politics of labeling in the EU migration policy” in the Panel "Migration Governance and Categories". She also acted as a discussant and chair in the panels “Migration and Voicing: the Challenges of Representation” and “Securitization, desecuritization and border productions”.

Abstract of the paper
“Migration categories and the politics of labeling in the EU migration policy”

In 2015, the director of news at Al Jazeera decided that the newspaper would no longer use the word migrant as having become a dehumanizing term, a “word that strips suffering people of voice". This debate was not new. It had, at times, involved the controversial use of word illegal, associated to migration, but also the definition of vulnerable or non vulnerable person and, most recently, that of high and low skilled migrants. These examples highlight that labelling and categorizing always happens in a specific context. Categories can be transformed, but they are entangled with relations of power, induced with meaning, and carry associations and images. They often are “codified” in laws and norms, and lead to the intensification of boundaries and decreased salience of differences.

This paper focuses on migration categories and the politics of labelling in the European Union. Migration categories are not like any other labels. They determine access to rights and services, the scope of control and intervention by governance actors, and as such structure opportunities of people on the move and shape everyday experiences of migrants. Labels are not static, but are dynamic, they are contested and re-interpreted through narratives and practices employed by governance actors and migrants themselves related to these labels.

Based on an understanding of labels as dynamics, the aim of the paper is to contribute to our understanding if, and if so, in how far the increasing externalization of migration and asylum policies and the intensified relations with non-EU sending and transit countries have shaped migration categories and the underlying politics of labelling. To analyze potential shifts and/or continuities, we look at selected key EU policy documents with an external dimension on migration, over time, using summative qualitative content analysis. In addition, we complement this material with project reports from migration-related projects in countries of origin and transit financed through EU funds to see if in the phase of implementation shifts in labelling occur that might not be visible at the level of policy output.

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