Doing the Game: The Moral Economy of Coming to Europe

Hannah Pool

For more than four decades, war and insecurity forced people from Afghanistan to move within the country or to neighboring Iran and Pakistan. Since 2014, however, there has been a sharp rise in the number of Afghans expanding their migration trajectories to the EU to seek asylum. This dangerous and expensive undertaking is referred to as “doing the game.” How is undocumented migration across international borders facilitated, enacted, and impeded? This research project is based on the findings of a multi-sited ethnography from Iran to Germany, which examines how social relations and economic transactions mutually enable, shape, and reinforce each other in undocumented migration, and was submitted as a dissertation in 2021. Tracing migrants’ trajectories in Iran, Turkey, Greece, the so-called Balkan route, and Germany, the study develops a dynamic and emic explanation of how migrants’ relationships facilitate economic interactions necessary for exerting mobility. It draws on the concept of moral economy and introduces the concept of a moral economy of coming to Europe. It analyzes how mobility emerged and was maintained through informal loans from families, smuggling services, and financial exchanges with fellow migrants, and explains periods of externally imposed immobility. The findings from the dissertation project are being prepared for publication in a book.

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