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Research Project: State-assigned Housing, 'Integration', and Struggles for Autonomous Living among Asylum Seekers in Berlin after 2015

Žiga Podgornik-Jakil

This research project investigates the recent governmental responses and developments in Berlin, Germany, related to the housing and integration of asylum seekers and how they are contested by the latter. Such policies produced by state institutions and private actors are forming an apparatus with an aim not only to create living and working possibilities for a specific group of people – that is for a certain part of asylum seekers, but to monitor and regulate their everyday lives. This process, beginning in 2015 with the placement of asylum seekers in emergency shelters and continuing from 2016 onwards with proposed sustainable ‘solutions’ drafted by the Berlin Senate in the so called ‘Master Plan for Integration and Security’ by constructing container and modular housing, is not linear and unchallenged. Rather, it is continuously contested by the asylum seekers, whose lives are acted upon by the developing policy frameworks. 
Ethnography is conducted through a cooperative empirical investigation with different Berlin’s activist networks struggling for decent housing for all, which monitor such developments by cooperating with asylum seekers predominantly stationed in sport halls that play the role of emergency shelters. We find out that containment in the latter is overly dehumanizing, taking away control over asylum seekers’ lives. Therefore, I am actively engaging with my field of research in a form of militant ethnography, which implies a certain ethical and political positioning. 
The research projects tries to combine two perspectives: On the one hand it engages in an analysis of the structural characteristics of aforementioned governmental responses by also giving some examples how they materialize on the ground, on the other it investigates the forms of resistance by the asylum seekers who reject regulations and surveillance functioning through an apparatus formed by the state and private actors. In this struggle housed asylum seekers are actively accompanied by activists, politicians, NGOs and critical academic scholars who introduce their own ideas for a decent place to live for all.