Placing Refugees in Authoritarian Neoliberalism: Reflections from Berlin and Paris

Ali Bhagat, Susanne Soederberg

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In 2015, a large influx of people forcibly displaced into Europe culminated in what has often been referred to by the media, government officials, and policymakers as the refugee crisis. This trope typically describes the tension between, on the one hand, a general willingness of many European countries to resettle refugees, and fiscal constraints allegedly beyond the control of governments, on the other. In the bounds of this apolitical and ahistorical storyline, refugees are blamed for increased homelessness and affordable housing shortages, despite deepening neoliberal practices that predate their arrival. With the goal of decentering this trope, we explore the lived experiences of refugees in their quest for stable housing in two major host cities: Berlin and Paris. In contrast to the refugee crisis narrative, we present a twofold argument. First, we suggest that authoritarian neoliberalism in Berlin and Paris have played a central—yet variegated—role in creating nondemocratic conditions that have led to rental housing insecurity for vulnerable populations, including refugees. Second, we suggest that the refugee crisis trope itself may be understood as an integral feature of authoritarian neoliberalism, as it actively erases the history, politics, and social context that have led to the construction of shelter insecurity.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSouth Atlantic Quarterly
Issue number2
Early online date1 Apr 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2019


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