EuroStorie research seminar: Isabel Meier 8.11.2019

The EuroStorie research seminar is organized by the Centre of Excellence in Law, Identity and the European Narratives and will host a guest speaker or several shorter presentations centred around a common theme.



Room 229, Psychologicum (Siltavuorenpenger 1 A, 00170 Helsinki)

Isabel Meier: The Emotional Politics of Border(ing)s in the Context of Asylum


This paper offers a discussion on the emotional work of borders. It shows the extent to which the bodies of asylum seekers experience discomfort and how it accumulates over different spaces and temporalities. Drawing on memory, observation, field notes and recorded bits of conversation with over 40 asylum seekers in London and Berlin, this paper explores the ways in which emotional and affective border violence is encountered, lived and negotiated in hidden and less hidden ways in everyday life. It reveals how much negotiation and emotion management goes into embodying the border. Living on, in the day-to-day existence of border(ing)s, leads to feelings of extreme exhaustion; a gradual depletion of asylum seekers’ lives. I conceptualise this emotional and affective border violence as a form of slow violence as it is experienced as an ongoing, invisible and gradual violence that often stays hidden from public eyes. This paper highlights the importance of attending to borders as affectionate and emotional and adds to the literature by further illustrating the interconnectedness of different scales of violence. Moreover, this paper offers a development of the concept of emotional labour by examining its entanglement with bordering practices. It also calls for the need to further situate how different locations create and require different amounts of emotion work and management.

About the speaker

Isabel Meier is a postdoctoral researcher at the Space and Political Agency Group at Tampere University. Her research interests are broadly centred around the politics of asylum and solidarity, bordering, urban life, with a particular focus on collaborative ethnographic methods. Isabel joined the Space and Political Agency Group at Tampere University in 2019 following a PhD in Social Sciences from the University of East London. Drawing on her own experience as activist in the UK and Germany, her PhD thesis brought together scholarship on activism, bordering and asylum, and affect and emotion to explore how asylum seekers negotiate political possibilities and affective bordering practices. Her current research interests are oriented around four main areas: 1) the emotional politics of bordering: the politics of dis/comfort, disappointment, alienation, shame and heartbreak; emotional labour and its entanglements with bordering practices; 2) the politics of temporality: waiting and the possibility of politics opening up in the present moment, 3) postcolonial and decolonial theory and borders, 4) political possibilities beyond citizenship.