Politics and practices of eligibility in Brazilian humanitarian bureaucracies

This project focusses on the experiences and interpretations of migrants (including categories such as non-documented migrants, asylum seekers or recognized refugees), who recently arrived in a new place and who negotiate their subject positions in their encounters within a highly diversified urban environment. It is assumed that they generate a first orientation along the opportunities of social and political interaction with different types of social groups and networks, as well as through the country of residence’s “politics of eligibility”, in which needs, particularly regarding political, social and cultural rights, are interpreted along changing political agendas and bureaucratic procedures.

This circumstance is explored in Brazil (São Paulo), which currently is becoming more and more attractive for new groups of migrants, especially from the so-called Global South, and which is reorganizing its politics of migration along new labour market and humanitarian trends. For understanding the interaction between employees of humanitarian organizations on the one hand and migrants on the other, “politics of eligibility” will be understood as dialogic encounters that are enacted from ‘both sides’. Participant observation accompanies moments of application as well as decisions over the granting or withdrawal of support. Additionally, the research perspective follows the everyday routines of migrants, also beyond the organizational context, for understanding the acquisition of information and knowledge as well as the access to other networks of support. The process of differentiation that attributes a special meaning to social categories such as nationality and ethnicity, gender or age is considered crucial. With this kind of approach this project not only contributes to contemporary theoretical advancements within an anthropology of migration, anthropology of law and bureaucracy, but also to an understanding of new forms of South-South migration that are currently still under-researched.


Fotos © Heike Drotbohm, 2016