Forced Migration, Agency and Vulnerability 

The working group “Forced migration, Agency and Vulnerability” approaches the lifeworlds of refugees from a relational perspective, which captures and reflexively discusses the social production of agency of refugees as well as the production of vulnerable subjects in their interactions and overlaps. The members are united by their interest in discussing theoretical, empirical, methodological and practice-oriented participatory approaches.

The two concepts ‘agency’ and ‘vulnerability’ have found their way into the refugee migration regime, into political and media debates, but also into pedagogical support systems. What both concepts have in common is that, beyond a relational understanding, they run the risk of essentializing the agency and vulnerability of refugees as a given characteristic and diverting attention away from the relevance of social environments that can foster and generate agency and/or vulnerability. In a truncated understanding, they establish refugees as ‘the others’ as well as ‘vulnerable subjects’ or ‘passive administrative objects’ in the first place or overemphasize refugees’ agency and thus contribute to a denial of help.

The working group critically examines the reception of both concepts and discusses the scientific as well as public discursive appropriations and understandings of agency and vulnerability in research and debate on refugee migration. He wants to make a relational conceptualization usable and asks about the social mechanisms of generating and/or denying agency and about the social construction of vulnerability. It focuses on social environments, networks, institutions, organizations and discourses in terms of their potential to promote or deny agency, as well as the importance of universal rights and participation for all refugees. Central questions are:

How are agency and vulnerability produced in social relations between refugees, social workers, volunteers, and authorities such as the immigration office, educational institutions, or shelters for refugees?

What power mechanisms, closure mechanisms, but also possibilities for action are revealed in these relationships and how are they processed by refugees?

How are capacities for action and vulnerabilities produced in structurally and institutionally framed conditions of power and powerlessness, such as collective accommodations for refugees, and how are they negotiated and processed by the persons and instances involved?

The working group is open to all interested scholars, practice partners, and actors with experiences of forced migration who deal with the topic of (forced) migration governance, and the perspectives of refugees.

Digital lecture series

Refugee Migration and Accommodation. Interdisciplinary Dialogues

The digital lecture series provides insight into theoretical and empirical perspectives on refugee migration and refugee housing. The lectures address issues of borders, decolonization, agency, education, ethnographic and participatory research, and ethics. In doing so, the lecturers think beyond the status quo and open up new starting points for social ways of dealing with forced migration and mobility.

Tue, 13 April 2021 10.15 – 11.45
Transnational Refugee Migration in Times of Corona Crisis: Ethnographic Perspectives from Greece (Moria) and Kenya (Kakuma) Claudia Böhme, Anett Schmitz (University of Trier)

Tue, April 27, 2021 10.15 – 11.45 a.m.
Decolonial perspectives on refugee migration and a life in camps as a terrible social process
Prof. Dr. Ronald Lutz (University of Applied Sciences Erfurt)

Tue, May 4, 2021 10.15 – 11.45 a.m.
“One struggles tired”. Agency and Vulnerability in the Professional Action of Pedagogical Professionals in Refugee Shelters Caroline Schmitt (University of Klagenfurt)

Tue, May 11, 2021 10.15 – 11.45 a.m.
School and Refuge. Participatory approaches in refugee research
Prof. Dr. Hans Karl Peterlini, Dr. Jasmin Donlic, Daniela Lehner, MSc.
(University of Klagenfurt)

Tue, May 18, 2021 10.15 – 11.45 a.m.
Postmigration. Perspectives beyond borders from the EUREGIO.
Assoz. Prof. Dr. Marc Hill (University of Innsbruck), Claudia Lintner (Free University of Bolzano)

Tue, 01 June 2021 10.15 – 11.45
Research in the context of forced migration and asylum. Impulse talks Margrit Kaufmann (University of Bremen), Prof. Dr. Ronald Lutz(University of Applied Sciences Erfurt), Laura Otto (Goethe University Frankfurt), Prof. Dr. Michael Schönhuth (University of Trier), Hoa Mai Trần, M.A. (Fachstelle Kinderwelten, Institut für den Situationsansatz Berlin).

POSTER Lecture Series Refugee Migration

Organization and moderation

Caroline Schmitt (University of Klagenfurt) Anett Schmitz (University of Trier)

For organizational reasons we ask for registration Please indicate the corresponding lecture, your name and your e-mail address: The link to the online event will be sent to you in due time.

Cooperation event

of the Institute of Educational Science and Educational Research of the University of Klagenfurt, the Department of Social Anthropology of the University of Trier and the working group “Forced migration, Agency and Vulnerability” of the Network Forced migration Research

Coordinators: Caroline Schmitt: 

Dr. Anett Schmitz: