Working Paper 188

Migration and the Transformation of German Administrative Law: an interdisciplinary research agenda

Larissa Vetters, together with Judith Eggers and Lisa Hahn

Department 'Law & Anthropology'

Year of publication

Number of pages

Working Paper 188

This working paper, which arose from collaborative research carried out at the Law & Society Institute at the Law Faculty of Humboldt University in Berlin and at the Department ‘Law & Anthropology’ at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in Halle, contributes to the growing field of socio-legal research on the topic of migration in Germany. It outlines a genuinely interdisciplinary research agenda for studying (German) administrative law as a central arena in which both notions of statehood (governed by the rule of law) and notions of citizenship are practiced, negotiated, and potentially transformed. We present a suggestion for how to bring theoretical concepts, methodological approaches, and findings from sociocultural anthropology, socio-legal research, and public law scholarship into a novel and productive dialogue.

In initiating such a dialogue, we hope to engage hitherto largely disconnected academic audiences, each of which we address with a particular objective: We encourage sociocultural anthropologists, who have a long tradition of studying legal and political organization in non-state settings and more recently have also turned their attention to the study of bureaucratic institutions and the state, to study German administrative law and its enactment within bureaucratic and judicial institutions with the same ethnographic scrutiny they apply to other systems of meaning and social practices. We invite legal sociologists to build on their focus on state law in action and their concern with how official law is implemented and mobilized and apply it more strongly to the study of migrants’ interaction with state law as one among a number of normative frames in which migrants are potentially embedded. Consideration of the ramifications of migrants’ transborder mobility and their embeddedness in plural normative orders can contribute to socio-legal conceptualizations of current dynamics in public law. And finally, we present to scholars of German public law an alternative proposal for understanding doctrinal reasoning as a contextualized social practice. Our proposal, which not only deconstructs the position of doctrinal reasoning in legal scholarship, but also reconstructs it, is based on integrating empirical ethnographic research into legal theory-building in a novel way. By nature, this attempt can be nothing but a first step and will necessarily be both too general and too selective in many respects. Placing our deliberations in this working paper series thus adequately represents their in-progress nature and is intended to stimulate further (interdisciplinary) discussion.

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