Migration and the Transformation of German Administrative Law: an ethnographic study of state-migrant interactions in administrative courts
Funded by Fritz Thyssen Foundation (2015-2017)
Head of project
Dr. Larissa Vetters
Dr. Larissa Vetters, LSI Berlin
Judith Marie Eggers, MPI Halle
Lisa Hahn, HU Berlin
Law & Society Institute Berlin
Against the backdrop of current migration flows and the by now well-established perception that Germany is a country of immigration, this research project asks how migration affects German administrative law. Being the legal realm that defines the form and content of state–citizen interactions in legal terms with the aim of enabling administrative actions while simultaneously protecting the individual from undue state interference, administrative law and its implementation in administrative practice play a crucial role in (re-)producing both the Rechtsstaat (constitutional state) and the Bürger (citizen). The theoretical starting point of this project is the relationship between the state, on the one hand, and the migrant as a legal subject shaped by administrative regulations on the other. As an empirical starting point we follow cases in which migrants appeal to specialized administrative courts in the city of Berlin to challenge administrative decisions that negatively affect their lives. Two questions are of central concern:
- How do migrants as individual and collective actors use and mobilize legal protections offered by administrative law when they are affected by its regulations? And how do those who apply these regulations in administrative bodies and courts face the challenges of having to take migrants into account and integrating them as legal subjects?
- What are the consequences of these social practices (i.e., interactions and negotiations that take place during the disputing process) for German administrative law and for the participating actors’ conceptions of the state under the rule of law? Are German administrative law and its basic ordering principle, the rule of law (Rechtsstaatlichkeit), transformed in the process and, if so, how?
An interdisciplinary team of three researchers with qualifications in sociocultural anthropology, law and administrative sciences is carrying out fieldwork to answer these questions. In the first step, exploratory interviews with migrants with a range of different formal legal statuses are being conducted to identify subfields of administrative law that are of relevance in migrants’ biographies (in addition to immigration regulations, these could include, for example, laws related to education, social law or trade/business regulations). In these legal fields data are being collected by means of participant observation, interviews and the analysis of written sources in four different settings, namely, migrants’ households and organizations, lawyers and legal aid organizations, administrative bodies, and administrative courts. Data collected by the individual researchers are systematically combined and analysed in the framework of a joint database. In the later stages of the project, selected in-depth case studies will be prepared by each researcher to further illuminate various aspects of legal transformation emerging from the empirical material.
The project contributes to interdisciplinary socio-legal research by bringing perspectives from the anthropology of the state, anthropology of migration and legal anthropology into a critical and reflexive dialogue with debates from doctrinal scholarship on the regulatory capacity of law in situations of state transformation. Funded by the Thyssen Foundation under the funding line ‘State, Economy and Society’, the project is a collaborative venture of the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in Halle and the Law and Society Institute at Humboldt University, Berlin.