Category: Spotlight on RESPONDERS

Spotlight on RESPOND-ers: Ursula Reeger and Ivan Josipovic

By Ivan Josipovic (Austrian Academy of Sciences) and Ursula Reeger (Austrian Academy of Sciences).

The Austrian team of the RESPOND project is located at the Institute for Urban and Regional Research (ISR)[1] of the Austrian Academy of Sciences[2]. In this blog entry, we intend to tell a little bit more about the institution and its tasks and aims, the persons involved in the project, and how RESPOND evolved from our point of view. To start with the latter, our RESPOND journey started in May 2016 when Ursula was asked whether she was interested in a collaboration in the Horizon 2020 call “Europe and the global challenge of migration”. For the rest of the year, she was active in working on selected parts of the application and in December 2016, she took part in a working meeting in Stockholm, where she met some members of the future consortium for the first time. After the consortium received excellent evaluation results and full funding for RESPOND, Ursula as the PI in Austria made a lot of interviews with potential candidates and finally decided to ask Ivan Josipovic to join her in the Austrian part of the project. Ivan started to work at the ISR in January 2018.

What are the main tasks of ISR?

The ISR is the only spatial science oriented non-university research institute in Austria. It is first and foremost engaged in the analysis of structures and the dynamics of modern society in urban and regional contexts, analysing population and society in their natural, built and social environment. The ISR emphasises the multi-perspective and transdisciplinary approach to research which is also reflected in the various scientific backgrounds of its researchers. ISR places societal problems at the heart of the analysis. Our spatial focus lies specifically on Vienna, Austria and Europe, however, the comparative element beyond national boundaries is important.

Since 2016, our research projects are oriented along two research groups “Urban Transformation” and “Innovation and Urban Economies”. Ursula and Ivan are part of the first research group which focusses on urban and more and more also regional change due to immigration. The research group brings together interdisciplinary (geographical, sociological, anthropological, political) expertise in urban research and a strong emphasis on diversity analysis, local integration analysis, urban housing market matters and studies on interethnic relations, social cohesion and migrant entrepreneurship.

Ursula Reeger

Ursula started to work at the ISR in 1989 right after she had finished her studies in Geography with an emphasis in Spatial Research and Regional Planning at the University of Vienna. She received her PhD in Geography in 1999 with her thesis focussing on xenophobia in Vienna and its determinants. Her research interests include international migration and its impacts on cities, integration of migrants on the labour market and the housing market, interethnic relations on the local level and the governance of migration and integration. While conducting a lot of smaller projects focussing on migrants in Vienna together with her colleague Josef Kohlbacher, Ursula has also been part of international projects funded mostly by the EU during the past 15 years. Her membership in the IMISCOE network[3] from its very beginning in 2004 gave her the opportunity for networking on the European level and for being part of such international research endeavours. The most important ones are

  • IDEA[4] “Mediterranean and Eastern European countries as new immigration destinations in the European Union”, led by CMR at Warsaw University (FP 6, project duration 2007-2009),
  • GEITONIES “Generating interethnic tolerance and neighbourhood integration in European urban spaces”, led by the Geographical Institute of the Lisbon University (FP 7, project duration 2008-2011) and
  • IMAGINATION[5] “Urban implications and governance of CEE migration in Europe”, led by Erasmus University Rotterdam (JPI Urban Europe, project duration 2013-2016).

She has published on the mentioned topics in a wide range of journals and in edited books.

Ivan Josipovic

Ivan had just finished his master’s thesis when he joined Ursula at the ISR to work on RESPOND earlier this year. With a background in Political Science and Socioeconomics he has already gathered experience studying migration and European integration. His master’s thesis focused on the European border regime and different forms of sovereignty underlying certain rationales of border policies. The RESPOND project allows him to further dig into these and other migration related matters through empirical research. In Austria, the project has already entered the phase of fieldwork with joint efforts to collect data through interviews with important stakeholders but also beneficiaries of asylum and asylum-seekers.  Besides that Ivan is developing a research proposal for his dissertation.






Spotlight on RESPOND-er: Justyna Szalanska

By Justyna Szlanska.

My journey to RESPOND began in 2014, when I attended a conference, ‘From a Cradle of Civilization to a Globalizing Transit Region’ organized by the Swedish Research Institute in Istanbul. With a group of academics and researchers from different disciplines like ethnology, psychology, archeology, political sciences, law and linguistics we discussed Turkey in the context of being a transit region witnessing an exchange of people, art and ideas. In fact, this process should be considered as including migration, since the latter is not only about the movement of people, but also about all of the things that people cannot live without.  Somehow, big politics frequently narrows migration to literal, dictionary understandings and creates and imposes this image of the process for the public. As a result, we face a production and reproduction of migration discourses, which often diverge from the real picture of the process.

My PhD research and my work for RESPOND are closely interlinked because both focus on political discourses in which migration is a key topic. Since I have a background in two areas: Political Sciences and Turkish studies, I would like to use the knowledge from both of them in my PhD dissertation. Therefore, in my PhD research, I focus on the interdependencies of two categories, namely, national identity and the foreign policy of Turkey. Since my aim is to show how national identity can be discursively created, I study the political discourse in Turkey by using the method of Discourse Analysis. The subject of my studies is Turkey’s foreign policy during Justice and Development Party (AKP) rule.

In order to illustrate the process of a discursive construction of identity, I am following the assumption that identity is a socially constructed phenomenon, and as such, it cannot exist independently from communities. The latter assumption is convergent with the theory of imagined communities of Benedict Anderson (Anderson 1991). Although the latter applies to nations, in fact identity and nation have much in common, especially in the case of national identity. For Foucault, identities and social beliefs are constituted in a discourse, as language is closely linked with power in society. As such, discourse is also an expression of social power, since it aims at imposing a specific meaning, signifiers, on language. (Foucault 1989).

The construction of identity is a two-fold process – first – the national Self and different and threatening Others are created, then there is a process of gradation of difference and Otherness (Hansen 2006, 37). In my dissertation I am applying Hansen’s theory of three different ways of identity construction: spatial, temporal and ethical (Hansen 2006, 46:51). Spatially constructed identity is an identity constituted relationally, which involves construction of boundaries and, hence, delineation of space. Spatial identity not only delineates different states – Russia, Syria, Iraq, but also creates different regions (Middle East, Near East, Eurasia). Spatial identity sometimes refers to people as well – since they are linked within a specific territory or space – for example, refugees, migrants, Westerners, Muslims. Temporal identity is closely related to various processes – progress, development, transformation, continuity, change, repetition. The Other is often described as ‘backward’, ‘tribal’, ‘savage’, ‘barbarian’, ‘primitive’, or ‘less developed’ and is distinguished by using specific expressions opposite to the Self. The Other doesn’t have to be external, but can be derived from the country’s or nation’s historical past.  In Turkey, the internal temporal Other are governments before AKP, in Poland, the internal Other is Civic Platform (Platforma Obywatelska) governments.

The ethical identity dimension is based on the assumption that foreign policy discourses always involve a construction of responsibility. Although the responsibility more often targets the national audience, hence governments like to emphasize their policies are pursued in the name of the national interest, in case of countries which are referred to as ‘powers’ or with ambitions to become an international or a regional power, an ‘international responsibility’ is raised. The latter is related to ethics and morality and is articulated as a responsibility of the Self towards the Other. The best example of ethical identity is the U.S. responsibility to promote democracy in the world. As for Turkey, ethical identity was firstly discursively created as responsibility towards the Muslim population in the world (their exemplary manifestations were: expression of support for people in the Gaza Strip during the Israeli operation of Leak Lead of 2008/2009, increasing development aid, the majority of which is focused on Muslim less developed countries; or support for the persecuted Rohingya Muslim minority in Myanmar).  This was later transformed into the ‘ethical foreign policy’ (ilkesel dış politikası) concept of the then Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

As I mentioned earlier, refugees or immigrants can play a very significant role in creating an identity through political discourse. During recent election campaigns in many European countries, like Poland, Hungary or Austria, it was seen that playing a “migrant card” had a real influence on the election results and contributed to the populist U-turn in these countries. Considering Turkey, the hosting of approximately 3 million of Syrian refugees was used in two different ways: the ruling Justice and Development Party tried to win votes by appealing to the Muslim brotherhood and mercy, whereas opposition parties presented them directly or indirectly as a burden to the country’s economy. Hence, it proved that the language used by the leading politicians to describe refugees is chosen deliberately and with a specific political purpose. Having in mind the huge peril of the misusage of language towards a specific group of people, which was most witnessed during World War II, I find the RESPOND project to be a chance for an objective study of the phenomenon of the last refugee movement and for raising awareness about the possibility of a non-biased stance towards it.

Justyna’s Biography

Currently, I am a PhD Candidate in the Department of Journalism and Political Sciences at the University of Warsaw, Poland.  I write my PhD dissertation on the interdependencies of Turkey’s national identity influence and foreign policy. I did M.A. Diploma in International Relations and B.A. Diploma in Turkish Studies at the University of Warsaw. In 2011, I was a Research Trainee at BILGESAM, a Turkish think tank. My research interests focus on identity issues in Turkey and Europe, nationalism and populism relations and, last but not least, discourses towards migration and refugees. In 2014 I was awarded a TUBITAK Scholarship for Foreign Researchers. From November 2014 until May 2015, I was a Research Fellow at the Center of International and European Research at Kadir Has University (Turkey). Since December 2017, I have been a researcher at the Swedish Research Institute of Istanbul, also cooperating with the Centre of Migration Research at the University of Warsaw in relation to the RESPOND project.