Exploring borderlands between civic engagement and academia

An ethnographic encounter of volunteering among refugees at the Austro-Bavarian border

  • Sabine Bauer-Amin
Keywords: refugees, native anthropology, Bavaria


In 2015, more than one million refugees made their way through Europe. For many, the remote area of the Austrian-Bavarian border became a compulsory stop of initial registration, where they were requested to stay in camps. This region of Germany, located between Austria and the Czech Republic, is deeply shaped by its own local history of migration, refuge and national population engineering. Based on its geographical location, residents have developed their own ways of interacting with ‘their’ borders. These behaviours were disrupted by the re-introduction of border controls in 2015. The example of my native town, Landau, shows how a local community changed with the arrival of thousands of refugees, a right-wing shift of national and local politics and a changing assessment of the region’s own past. These different dynamics took place simultaneously and were shaped by and in reaction to each other. The interplay of local, national and international politics, supporters and opponents, and activists and volunteers shaped the ‘summer of refuge’ not only for the refugees, but also for the local community in my hometown. In this article, I will discuss the implications of these transformations.