Projects (current)

SAGE – Regional Centre for Sustainable Adaptation to Global Change in the Middle East (2021–2025). This centre is based at an-Najah University in Nablus, Palestine, led by Eberhard Karls University Tübingen, and funded by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and the German Foreign Office. SAGE involves partners from the region and Germany and serves as a regional platform for capacity building of a young generation in the international environment of the Jordan Basin. SAGE will be a focal point for regional efforts to propose climate and land use change adaptation options. It will collect, assess and make available data about the current and future situation with regard to regional climate and natural resources, but it will also collaborate globally. As such, SAGE will not only help to create more effective resource management via scientific expertise, but also promote a transdisciplinary dialogue of scientists and stakeholders concerned with global change. I co-lead a research group on “Governance and Ethics“.

Migration and Im/Mobility in the Global South in Pandemic Times (2021-2024). The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic has led to unexpected and novel experiences of isolation, mobility restriction and new forms of political, social, economic and legal exclusion worldwide. Early on, measures that were aimed at containing the virus legitimised massive restrictions on urban, regional and international mobility. While curfews, quarantines, social distancing and mobility controls are experienced worldwide, mobile populations are particularly affected when borders are closed and migrants are turned away, commuters are denied border crossings, resettlement measures are suspended or unlawful deportations of refugees are justified by pandemic-related risks. In the course of such measures, mobile population groups and non-citizens are more than ever the target of xenophobia. This situation challenges us to develop alternative research approaches to a) collect data, b) gain new knowledge about the impact of the pandemic on societies of the Global South and c) contribute to theory building within the social sciences in order to programmatically reorient migration and im/mobility research. This academic network, led by the Universities of Mainz and Bielefeld, brings together twenty migration researchers, each contributing their different empirical experiences and theoretical perspectives.

Anthropocene Mobilities (2015– ). The Anthropocene names the latest episode in Earth’s history, in which mankind took control over the planet and pushed the Earth System into a new stage of disequilibrium. The Anthropocene epoch is crucially related to the issue of mobility. In a globalized world, goods, people, ideas and services are circulated across the planet. Species migrate to adapt to changing environmental conditions. The Anthropocene also forces some humans to leave their homes: people living at places contaminated by chemical or nuclear waste, the inhabitants of low-lying island, or people relocated for large-scale infrastructure projects like dams or mines. Yet, while some forms of mobility in the Anthropocene are welcomed and even promoted by Western politics, others are stigmatized and impeded. Anthropocene mobilities is an international network (which I co-lead with Dr. Delf Rothe) of scholars and experts who collectively discuss the question of how to address the phenomenon of mobility through the lens of the Anthropocene. This website presents a series of short pieces, video interviews, and visual interventions on this topic. The webpage lets you explore the richness of human and non-human stories of mobility and migration in four interactive episodes: mobile ontologies, colonial archives, worlds in motion and posthuman future(s).

Projects (completed)

Migration Governance and Asylum Crises – MAGYC (2018–2023). This Horizon2020 project, led by the Hugo Observatory at the University of Liège (Belgium), explored how European migration policies are influenced by political crises triggered by migration. At a time when such policies are heavily contested across EU member states, and when asylum seems more threatened than ever, this project was critically important to improve our understanding of how migration policies are formulated and shaped by a context of crisis. The project gathered 12 partners from Europe, Lebanon and Turkey.

Within MAGYC, I led the Work Package “Comparing Crises – Lessons from ‘Migration Crises’ in the Middle East, North Africa, and the Horn of Africa”. Here, my team and I wanted to understand two things:

1) What is a “migration crisis” in our research regions?, and

2) How do efforts to control and regulate movement figure in negotiations between state and non-state actors?

We argued that forced migration governance functions as a regime strategy of states at different levels of political stability with institutional and bureaucratic specificities limiting a state’s scope to act; is negotiated around humanitarian principles in which international actors and civil society play a crucial role; is driven by the size and perceived proximity of forced migrant groups in terms of race, gender, ethnicity, class, and religious belonging; and is characterised by strong path dependency.

Our work followed a process-oriented approach which focuses on different scales (local, national, inter-/transnational) and which takes forced migrants’ perspectives as a starting point. We build our empirical base by conducting (partly remote) field work in Lebanon, Jordan, Tunisia, Syria, Libya, Niger and Eritrea/the Eritrean diaspora, interviewing forced migrants as well as political decision-makers, civil society and international actors. This is complemented by archival research and a secondary literature review.

Read more about our methodology and approach in our Framework Paper.

CASCADE – Co-Resilience Of Natural And Social Systems In A Global Biodiversity Hotspot (2017–2018). CASCADE addressed the multilateral relationship between biodiversity, climate change, and society, focusing on unwanted feedbacks in social-ecological systems (SES). The project proposed, by means of a truly inter- and transdisciplinary approach, to study the drivers and impacts of tipping points in SES in an ideal study region. The project was unique in integrating natural and social sciences at eye level and in adopting the three-step model for transdisciplinarity: co-design, co-production and co-dissemination of research between science and stakeholders. Its focus was on the Jordan River region, located in a global biodiversity hotspot and including many progenitors of globally important crops. Steep climate gradients and highly diverse socio-economic settings provide an ideal real-life laboratory. The project was financed by the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research, submitted by a transdisciplinary consortium composed of scientific partners from Germany, Palestine, Jordan, and Israel as well as numerous stakeholders from the Jordan River region, and was coordinated by Prof. Dr. Katja Tielbörger, University of Tübingen. The project’s transdisciplinary approach is detailed in this article.

Creatures of Illusion. A critical review of Remote Sensing as a tool for assessing social and ecological sustainability in refugee camps (2015–2016). This project was interested in the different ways of “seeing” refugees – from afar through remote sensing methods, and from close-up through ethnographic field research. Following a mixed methods approach, it problematised and furthered the debate on digital humanitarianism – that is the increasing reliance on digital (visual) technologies such as satellite remote sensing in humanitarian governance. It was funded by the Centre for a Sustainable University at the University of Hamburg, and co-led with Dr. Delf Rothe, IFSH.

The project results have been published in the journal International Political Sociology.

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