June 7, 6 pm
Lectures, discussion

Economies on the Borderline


Kathi Hahn, Dieter Behr
(European Civic Forum)
Bitter Harvest. Migration, Exploitation and Resistance in Europe’s Industrialized Agriculture

The produce aisles of supermarkets lure customers with bright red strawberries and tomatoes, green cucumbers and rainbow-colored peppers—delivered fresh every day. But behind this high-gloss consumer merchandise is a reality often marked by social and ecological exploitation. A dramatic example of the deplorable state of affairs currently found in large-scale fruit and vegetable cultivation is the area around Almeria in the El Ejido region of southern Spain. Plastic greenhouses cover a total of some 35,000 hectares there, in which more than ten kilos of hothouse produce is turned out every year for each European consumer. This production method gives rise to the exploitation of thousands of disenfranchised migrant workers from Africa, Latin America and Eastern Europe. In early December 2005, following a successful fund-raising drive conducted by the European Civic Forum, the first local branch of the SOC trade union (Syndicato dos obrer(at)s del campo—Agricultural Workers’ Union) was opened in El Ejido. This step is an important start for the migrants in organizing themselves and taking up the struggle against racial discrimination. The paradigm of “grow or perish” is bringing forth similar structures all across Europe, whether on peach plantations in southern France, in the high-tech greenhouses of Holland, or on the asparagus and strawberry fields of the Austrian plains. In order to manage their businesses profitably and remain competitive when cultivating work-intensive crops, modern agricultural enterprises find themselves compelled to draw on a large, cheap workforce deprived of the most basic rights.

The European Civic Forum (EBF) was born during the 1989 political upheavals in Eastern Europe und was formally founded shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Along with the themes of flight, migration and Fortress Europe, the organization’s priorities also include developments in the countryside and in agriculture. The EBF has published the brochure “Bitter Harvest—Modern Slavery in Europe’s Industrialized Agriculture.”

Manuela Bojadzˇijev
Precarious Migration. Transformations in the Migration Regime and Migration Movements in Southern Europe

European migration policies reach far beyond the territorial borders of the EU. Can the outlines of a new imperial migration regime be discerned at the edges of Europe when observed by way of the vanishing lines of citizenship and its growing precariousness? Who are the migrant workers in southern Europe? What civic practices are being tried out here? Which migration movements criss-cross this territory and from time to time the politics of the EU and the USA?

The presentation displays the results of the interdisciplinary research project “TRANSIT MIGRATION,” which investigated the transformations of the European migration and border regime in the context of the EU expansion and the current practices and routes of the migration movements in southern Europe. The focus is in particular on the development of the nations that formerly made up Yugoslavia.

Manuela Bojadzˇijev is a political scientist who wrote her doctoral thesis on the social struggles of migrants in Germany. In 2003–2005, she did research for the project “TRANSIT MIGRATION” and co-published (with Alex Demiroviç) “Economies of Racism” (2002).

Michael Zinganel et al.
Saison Opening

The former East German states: when jobs become fewer, people move away, regions become depopulated and go into decline. A cycle that in the end leads to deserted cities containing a disproportionate number of old people with little money. In the Tyrolean Alps, a change is emerging in the transnational migration streams in which Germans in particular play a central role: Germans are no long present solely as tourists, but also increasingly as seasonal workers, who help keep business going especially in the intensive winter season. Judged by the number of jobs it offers, the Alpine tourist industry in Austria now acts as the biggest private employer for citizens from former East Germany. This project is based on source research in statistical databases, but above all on interviews with people looking for work, employment agencies and employers in the former East German states and in the Tyrol. The authors develop a vision building on the skills and experiences brought back home from the Tyrol.

The example of a small bar opened by a former seasonal worker in her hometown demonstrates how the transfer of cultural know-how, capital accumulated during seasonal work, social skills and the use of the trans-national social networks that emerge from tourism’s subcultures are able to complement each other productively; as well as how people’s heterogeneous experience of tourism can offer unexpected opportunities for self-empowerment.

Michael Zinganel is cutural theorist, architecture historian, artist and curator.