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The interdisciplinary research on migration at the Viadrina Center B/ORDERS IN MOTION explores the relationship, constituted by borders, between social orders and migration. The purpose is to gain a deeper understanding of the relevance of borders for regulating human mobility and for migrants’ agency, and the change of the social order resulting from it. We are interested in how borders are becoming a method for categorizing and classifying people – for example, in terms of their background, culture, ethnic group, gender, education, class, and utility to the labor market – in order to channel their mobility and to assign them specific spatial, social, and temporal positions within an order. In this way, state borders operate as semipermeable membranes that open up access and rights to some while refusing them to others.

In this context, borders are not to be understood solely in political-territorial terms. Instead, it is also about social and discursive borders as well as administrative or legal barriers that result in the inclusion and exclusion of migrants by the state and within society. Even if the function of controls on persons has ceased to exist within the EU and political-territorial borders seem to be less effective, migrants encounter multiple successive barriers even beyond the state borders.

Of particular interest to our approach is the question of how spatial, social, and temporal dimensions of borders intertwine and create liminal spaces or ‘gray zones’ here. For example, territorial borders can influence the speed of mobility in temporal terms and can mean that migrants have to wait. For political reasons, transit centers create different time-spaces for the various people housed there. Borders can also open up spaces of violence in which people are without rights for indeterminate periods. Other examples of borders that can be localized include urban and rural residential areas that differ in terms of their varying infrastructures or the social status of their residents.

For our research, it is also of interest how borders between various orders either overlap or conflict with each other and how this can impact migrants and their positions in systems of order. This is the case, for example, when nation-states’ sovereign claims collide with universal human rights.