Sunday, 6 September 2015

‘Out of Rosenheim’: traveling into Europe

By Ulrike M Vieten, Belfast, 6.9.2015

Recently, I traveled from Austria via Rosenheim to Munich. I was back from a holiday, and Rosenheim is the stop where one of the internal ‘invisible’ EU borders is guarded: Police men and women are doing regular checks on trains looking for illegal immigrants. Actually, as an EU citizen and tourist I was going through these stations just on that Monday before the amazing welcoming of refugees occurred in Bavaria, the 31st of August 2015.
‘Out of Rosenheim’ (Bagdad Café) is the title of an US-German road movie of 1987. It narrates the story of a white female Bavarian tourist (Jasmin) trapped somewhere in the US desert, and finding shelter, friendship and love at the Bagdad Café. The Cafés owner, female black American (Brenda) hosts Jasmin and, though irritated initially by her Bavarian cultural background, their fondness grows and they become close.
With a remarkably change in immigration policy, the Merkel government announced that the Dublin Regulation will be suspended as far as Germany is concerned; and refugees, who had arrived in another member state of the EU – Hungary for this matter - could leave, pass through and go to the country of their choice to claim asylum. 
Hang on; yes, Germany agreed to accommodate about 800.000 refugees; this is a huge figure. How come that this rich country is willing to do so whereas another similarly wealthy country, the UK, is not even willing to take 10.000?
We could argue that as part of its historical responsibility, e.g. the Blair government of 2003’ decision to take warfare to Iraq, now creates a humanitarian obligation to face up to uprooted and fleeing fellow human beings in the UK, particulalry. Yes, we were a million protesting against the invasion of Iraq in London of 2003, but the government did not care. 
On the other hand, the German SPD-Green party coalition government back in 2003, led by chancellor Schroeder, refused to engage in the Anglo-American lead militaristic intervention. It is now the CDU/ CSU-SPD coalition in Germany that changes mind and heart. Political party politics matters? Yes, and no.
12 years later, another UK government - Tory  - shies away from its responsibility to reach out to a balanced European solidarity network of accommodating those, fleeing war and extinction.
This all is happening on similar European ground inhaling colonial history, past and present. However, it is colonialisms on dissimilar footage as some European countries built their Empires and wealth on slavery and international trade whereas others are more renown for systematic exploitation and extinction of various populations in totalitarian ways. The contemporary situation shows that imperial wars continue, particularly in the Middle East, and across the region of the Arab spring. What about that legacy?

As far as Germany is concerned we are puzzled by a paradox situation: the recent German far right populist movement, PEGIDA visible not only in the East German city of Dresden, but mushrooming across the country, and the arson attacks of potential asylum locations  in different parts of Germany, but particularly in some East German parts (e.g. Saxony) refer to xenophobic attitudes. So what does this new 'welcoming of refugees culture' implicate elsewhere? Are we done with racisms and xenophobia? It seems society is deeply divided. Still, I am skeptical and argue that alongside a mundane urban cosmopolitanism a negative cosmopolitanism has (re-)evolved that dismisses certain bodies or groups with regard to shifting racialised and classed boundaries in Europe.  (Vieten 2012;Vieten & Valentine 2015)
But still: the spontaneous help, empathy and compassion shown by the local populations in Munich, Vienna and elsewhere creates the hope of another cosmopolitan moment: it is here, where the global connection of people becomes visible; it is here, where strangers help strangers and humanity works at its best.

Saturday, 6 December 2014



Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Revisiting Iris Marion Young on Normalisation, Inclusion and Democarcy

My new book is out soon, an edited collection bringing together some papers given at the 2012 IRIS MARION YOUNG Memorial symposium in Amsterdam

Monday, 15 July 2013

Other activities... Erfurt Lecture in May 2013

Gastvortrag ‘Deutsche, britische und niederländische Stimmen des Aufbruchs in Europa: ‘Neu’ BürgerInnen jenseits nationaler Begrenzungen‘, Rathaus in Erfurt– Ringvorlesung ‘Migration, Integration, Inklusion’, 28.05.2013