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"Doing the Game": The Moral Economy of Coming to Europe


Pool,  Hannah
International Max Planck Research School on the Social and Political Constitution of the Economy, MPI for the Study of Societies, Max Planck Society;

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Pool, H. (2021). "Doing the Game": The Moral Economy of Coming to Europe. PhD Thesis, University of Cologne, Cologne.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0009-7681-0
For more than four decades, war and insecurity have forced people from Afghanistan to
move within the country and to neighboring Iran and Pakistan. Since 2014, however,
there has been a sharp increase in Afghans expanding their migration trajectories and
taking the dangerous and expensive route to the EU to seek asylum. This dissertation
seeks to explain what enables and hinders undocumented migration routes across international
borders over thousands of kilometers. Based on a ten-month multi-sited ethnography
from Iran to Germany, this research project examines how social relationships
and economic interactions enable, shape, and reinforce each other to facilitate or impede
undocumented migration.
Therefore, the research draws on the concept of the moral economy and examines
what I call a moral economy of coming to Europe. Thereby, the research develops a
dynamic and emic explanation of how migrants’ relationships with various actors facilitate
economic interactions necessary for exerting mobility.
On the one hand, the concept of the moral economy is deployed to analyze how mobility
arises and is sustained through informal loans from families in the country of origin,
smuggling services provided by community-based smugglers, and financial exchanges
with fellow migrants. On the other hand, the concept of the moral economy is applied
to explain phases of externally imposed immobility. By broadening the focus to include
border guards and humanitarian actors, the moral economy of violence and neglect as
well as control and care is examined.
In its five empirical chapters, the dissertation focuses on each of the trajectories’ sites
in Iran, Turkey, Greece, the so-called Balkan route, and Germany to locate and situate
the recorded interviews with 66 Afghan migrants and 10 NGOs.
The research contributes to an understanding of how social relationships and economic interactions are intertwined in undocumented migration in marginalized and insecure environments.