The Stilled-Other of the Citizen. “Roma Beggars” and Regimes of (Im)mobility in an Austrian City

  • Eberhard RaithelhuberEmail author
Open Access
Part of the IMISCOE Research Series book series (IMIS)


The chapter looks into the socio-material production and regulation of the ethno-political figure of the “Roma beggar” through the prism of a regime-of-(im)mobility approach. Based on an ethnographic study, core aspects of this regime for “Roma beggars” are analysed on a micro-scale: criminalizing transport, invisibilising borders, educating beggars, victimization, stillness and deportability. The study investigates the everyday social and physical infrastructures and logistics for (im)mobility, imaginaries of (im)mobility and discursive technologies. It shows how a differentiated, rationalized knowledge on “them” is produced. “Roma beggars” are constituted as an epistemic object and policy target, legitimizing the unequal treatment of people in the name of security. The related regime-of-(im)mobility derives its effectiveness precisely from its in-built arbitrariness and inconsistency. The key insight is that the “stilled, able beggar” is the only legitimate form of begging in the light of a community of good and able citizens. As this figure is practically unrealizable and deceptive, it flips into the “Roma beggar”. The chapter concludes that this “stilled-Other of the citizen” is a discursively activatable and materially stabilized aspect of the Otherness operating within the concept of citizenship itself. Hence, the regime-of-(im)mobility for “Roma beggars” turns out to be an integral part of regimes that enable differential movements and forms of (im)mobile existences among all kinds of people.

The chapter looks into the socio-material production and regulation of the ethno-political figure of the “Roma beggar” through the prism of a regime-of-(im)mobility approach. Based on an ethnographic study, core aspects of this regime for “Roma beggars” are analysed on a micro-scale: criminalizing transport, invisibilising borders, educating beggars, victimization, stillness and deportability. The study investigates the everyday social and physical infrastructures and logistics for (im)mobility, imaginaries of (im)mobility and discursive technologies. It shows how a differentiated, rationalized knowledge on “them” is produced. “Roma beggars” are constituted as an epistemic object and policy target, legitimizing the unequal treatment of people in the name of security. The related regime-of-(im)mobility derives its effectiveness precisely from its in-built arbitrariness and inconsistency. The key insight is that the “stilled, able beggar” is the only legitimate form of begging in the light of a community of good and able citizens. As this figure is practically unrealizable and deceptive, it flips into the “Roma beggar”. The chapter concludes that this “stilled-Other of the citizen” is a discursively activatable and materially stabilized aspect of the Otherness operating within the concept of citizenship itself. Hence, the regime-of-(im)mobility for “Roma beggars” turns out to be an integral part of regimes that enable differential movements and forms of (im)mobile existences among all kinds of people.

8.1 Introduction

For some years now, the presence of beggars from South-eastern Europe has been intensely debated in many European cities, and that is the case in the Austrian city of Karlstadt.1 Everybody in town is aware of the phenomenon and almost everyone has an opinion about the people sitting on the street, approximately 80–130 of them across the city. However, the ethno-political phenomenon of the “Roma beggar” is hard to grasp. For the analyst, the many different situations, discourses, practices and policies which somehow belong to the phenomenon appear somewhat disconnected and dispersed at first sight. This chapter looks at the phenomenon at hand through the prism of a regime-of-(im)mobility approach. Drawing on an on-going long-term ethnographic, multi-sited case study, I focus on narratives, practices and policies on a variety of local and trans-local levels which lead to the ethno-political construction of “Roma beggars” and their regulation and governance. I argue that the definition and governance of particular populations as unwanted by and unbearable for citizens in their “natural” territory, especially if these populations are connected to cross-border mobility and ethno-cultural difference, teaches us a lot about “the citizen” extending beyond the particular phenomenon of transnational begging.

I consider it necessary to understand the construction of the “Roma beggar” not from a migration perspective, but within a broader picture as something that is closely connected to the production, regulation and control of the mobilities and immobilities of all people – whatever their legal status – within a territory. As a consequence, my research partly leans on border studies and critical migration studies, but is grounded to a greater extent in mobility studies (for an overview see Cresswell 2011a; Adey 2017; Adey et al. 2014; Salazar and Jayaram 2016). This implies that movement is not primarily understood as a “transnational mobility” of some sort or group of “migrants”. Instead, the study includes insights, approaches and concepts that traditionally come from other fields of study, such as tourism or transport studies, which are part of the still emerging field of mobility studies.

By this means, the study examines everyday (im)mobility in situ through a magnifying glass and looks at connections across time and space. This relational and critical understanding of (im)mobilities implies, finally, that studying the regime-of-(im)mobility for “Roma beggars” is not a self-contained field of study. Rather than exploring the question of who “Roma beggars” are, the underlying study wants to provide a prism through which to understand how the intersection of (im)mobilities and social (in)security is a core field for the stabilization and, possibly, transformation of power relations and inequalities which, in turn, build on particular (im)mobile social and political figures, such as the “Good citizen” (Anderson 2013), the “failed citizen”, the “immigrant”, the “abject citizen” (Hepworth 2012), “Roma” (Surdu 2016) or – in this case – the “Roma beggar”.

8.1.1 Intersecting Border Studies and Mobility Studies

In recent years, mobility studies have increasingly focused on different politics of mobility (Cresswell 2010; Squire 2010; Parker and López Catalán 2014; Schapendonk and Steel 2016; van Baar 2012) as well as on the mobility of politics (Peck and Theodore 2010). Hence, the questions have been placed on the agenda of how movement, power and politics are interwoven, what this means for everyday life and how movement is both experienced and conditional on experience (Bærenholdt 2013; Doughty and Murray 2014). This is the case in works on the forced motionlessness of detainees or refugees, or on forced “repatriation” (De Genova and Peutz 2010; Merriman 2015: 38ff). This aspect has also been researched with regard to the migration of “Roma” populations both outside and within the borders of the European Union (Jeremić 2012; Sigona and Vermeersch 2012; Leko 2017). Hence, several intersections have become visible between critical migration and border studies (which also use the concept of the regime) on the one hand, and, on the other hand, mobility studies.

Within migration and border studies, the concept of the regime has not only replaced the classical concept of migration systems and related theories (Müller 2010: 24ff). It has also allowed for a different conceptual understanding of who and what brings about a border, where it is located and what it actually consists of. Hence, using the concept of a regime “makes it possible to include a multitude of actors whose practices relate to each other but are not ordered in the form of a central logic or rationality; rather, the concept of ‘regime’ implies a space of negotiating practices.” (Tsianos et al. 2009: 2) Thinking in terms of a regime allows us to think of borders as highly permeable, somewhat distributed and extended; an arena “where the regime of mobility control is itself challenged by the fluid, clandestine, multidirectional, and context-dependent forms of mobility.” (ibid) Research following this line of thought focuses on zones (Squire 2010; Schulze Wessel 2017), e.g. transit zones, on camps (Dietrich 2015; Ilcan 2013) and shelters (Solano 2017), and other installations of control, selection, regulation and enablement, both of movement and fixation, including extended, extra-territorial and remote forms of migration control (Gaibazzi et al. 2017).

Mobility studies display many parallels to these perspectives. However, they offer the advantage of “de-migrating” the empirical and theoretical orientation towards certain forms of movement such as migration or flight, which are frequently regarded or at least addressed as something exceptional or special, even in critical research. Metaphorically speaking, mobility studies have the potential of freeing these perspectives from their migratory chains and of somehow normalizing mobility, thereby placing it within a broader, but equally power-sensitive analytical perspective.

This is important for the study at hand on “Roma beggars”. While shelters, camps and police stations, all classical objects of migration and border studies, play an important role in the underlying regime-of-(im)mobility, related practices and narratives often take place in “normal” life, i.e. public space and public institutions. Bridges, embankments, parks, pedestrian zones, bicycle lanes, public toilets and squares can be understood as both part of the context of a “critical infrastructure” (Korpela 2016) for practising mobility, as well as being “actively produced by the act of moving” (Cresswell and Merriman 2011: 7). In this context, infrastructures, both visible and invisible ones, are considered core aspects for controlling, enabling and constraining the mobility and immobility of different people in different ways. Nation states and derivative formations “below” and “above” this scale are presumed to be key actors in using infrastructures to exercise power over people’s movement (Korpela 2016). Reminiscent of insights from studies on embodiment, performance and corporeality, e.g. in gender studies, mobility scholars emphasize within a historical and geographical perspective that “particular means and styles of moving have come to be associated with distinctive subject positions.” (Cresswell and Merriman 2011: 9).

Drawing on these insights, the presented study will show that different styles and means of moving, different forms of spacing, place-making or timing do not necessarily coincide or coexist in one geographical and social space. They depend on diverse and unequal regimes-of-(im)mobility, which are engendered simultaneously, thus problematizing and normalizing both the movement and standstill of people, objects, ideas and symbols. This also means that a mobilities perspective is sensitive to the role of artefacts and objects of everyday use for the regulation of (im)mobilities, such as bikes, knives, personal belongings, water bottles, cash, photographs and begging signs, handwritten notes and booklets, ID cards, cars etc. Furthermore, paralleling research on precarious, highly controlled and marginalized populations in other fields of study focusing on resistance, on potentially subversive acts of citizenship (Isin and Nielsen 2008; Nyers and Rygiel 2012), on protest or on creativity and agency, the perspective employed here also shares the assumption that related, discursively produced and pre-fabricated “subject positions are also inhabited, resisted and manipulated through practice” (Cresswell and Merriman 2011: 9).

8.1.2 The Effectiveness of Regimes-of-(Im)mobility

Conventional approaches (e.g. Kesselring 2014) emphasize that regimes of mobility consist of rules or general codes of conduct, which are binding in subsequent action and procedures, or that these regimes entail clear cultural norms or rigid legal frameworks which make mobility policies effective and efficient. While rules and their application are clearly an important part of regimes, two things have to be stressed here beyond this. Firstly, regimes-of-(im)mobility are also discursively constructed. Secondly, and importantly, we must be aware that the arbitrary and inconsistent application of regulations (based on norms, rules or principles) does not reduce or demolish the effectiveness of regulations. Quite the contrary, an arbitrary and inconsistent application of a regulation can be a source of its effectiveness (Baker 2016: 158).

To demarcate such an understanding, scholars introduced the linguistic convention of “regimes of (im)mobility” (Baker 2016: 152ff; see also Glick Schiller and Salazar 2013; Salazar 2012; Shamir 2005). In a nutshell, regimes-of-(im)mobility can be defined as

Rationalized systems for the regulation of movement—of people, goods, capital, and certain forms of knowledge—that encompass both infrastructural and discursive technologies. They may be formal and governmental, corporate, or informal and outside of legal frameworks, and they produce the material conditions for mobility and immobility, as well as the values and ideas that justify and legitimize distinctions between classes of objects and kinds of people who are accorded differential rights to mobility. (Baker 2016: 153)

This regime-of-(im)mobility approach shows similarities with two strands of regime thought in the context of migration research, namely those building on the “French regulation school” and those in the “dynamic field of governmentality studies”, to use the differentiations offered by Horvath et al. (2017: 304ff) in their recent attempt to sort out regime perspectives for migration research. The regime-of-(im)mobility approach in the context of this chapter is characterised by the following five basic assumptions. Firstly, employing a relativistic, relational perspective, the regimes-of-(im)mobility approach counters “either-or” approaches which consider movement and stasis as oppositions or as poles in a continuum. Secondly, it emphasizes questions of inequality and power, especially when looking at the connection between the wanted, legitimized mobility enjoyed by some and the immobility of many others (Glick Schiller and Salazar 2013). Thirdly, and connected to this, the concept puts forward a different view of how this connection comes about in the context of regulation. Traditionally, the term “regime” in social sciences has been connected to a sort of regulatory scheme or system, e.g. of migration or welfare, which is closely connected to the state and its functions, or to supra-state institutions. According to Baker (2016), one major deficit of this perspective is the underlying normative and state-centred model it embraces. Research on migration, mobility or social security often stems from the inbuilt, “techno-political” assumption that thereis a need for, deficit in, or lack of regulation that must be met by rational and effective means. Countering this functionalist perspective on effectiveness, scholars have proposed a diverging perspective on the question of where effectiveness comes from. According to this view, state regulation in the context of migrant mobility is powerful precisely because it lacks efficiency and orderliness:

State regulation of migrant mobility is effective, in large part, because of its spectacular, public, violent, and destructive nature as well as its arbitrary and inconsistent application. (Baker 2016: 158)

Hence, the effectiveness of a mobility regime can only be fully grasped when seeing it as part of a regime-of-(im)mobility which is strong enough to “frame discourses on belonging, exclusion, rights and freedom”, as Baker (2016: 157ff) writes with reference to Glick Schiller and Salazar (2013) and to De Genova (2006). Fourthly, such an approach is sensitive to infrastructures (both physical and social) for mobility, imaginaries of (im)mobility and discursive technologies, and to how they are engendered to bring about and legitimize (in)equality in connection with the differential allocation of resources for (im)mobility and the attribution of related possibilities, rights, freedoms and positions. Fifthly, approaches to regimes of mobility show a strong focus on the simultaneity of related actions and events (Kesselring 2014: 3). Before turning to different aspects which make up the regime-of-(im)mobility for “Roma beggars” in Karlstadt, the next paragraph presents the research context and the methodology employed.

8.2 Methodology and Research Context

Empirically, the underlying research is based on an on-going, long-term and multi-sited ethnographic field study. This started in 2014 in Karlstadt and extended beyond Austria in cities in Sweden, as well as in slum settlements and communities in rural Romania. As a strategy to access the field, I moved around in situ (streets, sleeping places, begging places, shelters etc.) and travelled various times to Southern Romania, both with the people identified here as “Roma beggars” as well as with supporters from Karlstadt, i.e. activists supporting their claims, organizing medical treatment, and doing informal street work. I used a “following strategy” (Marcus 1995) and “mobile methods” (Büscher and Urry 2009; D’Andrea et al. 2011; Manderscheid 2014; Elliot et al. 2017) predominantly to trace or accompany different actors in the field. My intention was to delve into a “random” empirical field to substantialize and develop conceptual and theoretical reflections on the intersections of social (de)protection and (im)mobilities, inspired by a No Borders approach. In a nutshell, I adopted a “mobilities” perspective that reflects a No Borders approach (Raithelhuber et al. 2018).

8.2.1 Research Context

“Roma beggars”, similarly to politically more correct, but equally questionable terms such as “poverty migrants” (in German: “Armutsmigranten”) or “emergency travellers” (in German: “Notreisende”), which are both currently used in Austria, is a dummy pejorative category which I use as a heuristic to reconstruct a phenomenon. In my research it refers to people who are temporarily present in Karlstadt and, in most cases, have their self-declared home in South Eastern Europe. I refer mostly to extended family members from three nearby, remote slum settlements in rural Southern Romania. During my research, people from these shanty-towns comprised the largest number of transnationally mobile beggars in Karlstadt. These people spoke Romanian as their first language. They usually self-identified as Rudari (mostly understood as a Roma subgroup) or as țigani (Gypsies) when wanting to differentiate themselves from other groups, such as non-Roma Romanians (see also Leggio and Matras 2017: 4ff). Many moved to Karlstadt, some of them several times a year for several weeks, as well as travelling to other places and other countries, such as Sweden, Germany, France, Spain or Italy. Similarly to many other Roma and non-Roma communities from Eastern European countries, their current transnational mobility patterns towards the “old” EU member states following the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1990 should be seen as strongly connected to socio-political and socio-economic changes in their countries of origin (Asséo et al. 2017). During my research, most of those who visited Karlstadt were dedicated to begging on the street during daylight hours or sold street newspapers, in the absence of adequate opportunities to support their families back home or to generate substantial income. Though some found temporary shelter in emergency overnight accommodation, many of these people slept outside in the open air by the river or in public parks (some even when it was minus 10°C or colder), or searched for a dry place under bridges. A few hid in abandoned houses during the night or slept in cars.

In this chapter, I predominantly focus on policies, practices and discourses in one Austrian city, partly due to the fact that, at least at first sight, the regulation of the (im)mobility of “Roma beggars” in Karlstadt seems to be framed and treated as a local problem. However, the discourses, practices and policies both addressing and constructing “Roma” are multi-scalar, complex and contradictory. Their construction and experience as “Roma” are shaped by ethno-cultural, as well as by different national, European and international policies and scientific expertise (Sigona and Vermeersch 2012: 1190). EU policies and scientific expertise also provided the basis on which the “Roma subject” and, more generally, Roma populations were created discursively and materially as particularly vulnerable and socially troubled groups (Vermeersch 2012; Surdu 2016; Magazzini 2016). In the context of my research, the discourse and related technologies can be understood as providing tools for knowledge production, for perceiving heterogeneous incidents and individuals as a particular “phenomenon” or “group”, for performing and legitimizing related social practices (e.g. of sorting, classifying, helping, punishing etc.), for subjectivizing social positionings and (im)mobile figures and for (de)valorizing particular groups and behaviours.

8.2.2 The Discourse on “Roma Beggars” in Town

Building on this, the term “Roma beggars” relates to the dominant pejorative discourse on beggars in Karlstadt. This discourse and related practices and policies create categories for subject positions and for (im)mobile social and political figures. Addressing this group as “Roma beggars” (re)constructs them as manifestations of a certain (im)mobile social and political figure within the (national) state-security nexus, maintained by policy institutions (e.g. the police, the public order office, councils and public services) and welfare institutions (e.g. NGOs, hospitals, social services) as well as by public discourse and the media. In this context, the term “Roma beggars” emerges as a re-construction at the intersection of citizenship and mobility studies that is used to understand a given phenomenon. It attempts to grasp how certain fields of action and differentially valued, hierarchically ordered and mutually interdependent figures are politically co-constructed and ruled. In this light, the following paragraph reconstructs the shared responsibilities of different actors in Karlstadt in bringing about a local discourse on “Roma beggars” as an ethno-cultural or ethno-political phenomenon, before turning to the analysis of different aspects which make up the regime-of-(im)mobility for “Roma beggars” in Karlstadt in the narrow sense.

Denominations are often indicative of the ways in which the categorized individuals can legitimately be treated (Housley and Fitzgerald 2009: 358ff; Bowker and Star 1999). In Karlstadt, most official policy documents, e.g. police reports, municipal decrees and official reports, do not show a direct ethnical framing to categorize the people that their discourse connects with begging. However, several years ago, a police report, parts of which is repeatedly cited in subsequent official reports, provides the following “general information” on the local case of begging: “Most of the beggars’ groups belong to an ethnic minority” (official report No. 1). Further on, the same report explains that the number of “so-called street artists (mimes) and ‘supposed’ musicians, some of whom are actually assigned to the same ethnic group”, has increased (state police report no. 1, cited in official report No. 1). Most of the time, written texts do not contain a clear ethno-cultural categorization of the people under observation. However, reports by the national police in Karlstadt and by the municipality speak of a “beggar milieu” frequently and in a matter-of-course manner. Using this term, these documents discursively shape a category or “group” out of a number of fundamentally heterogeneous, sometimes socially completely unconnected individuals. The term “beggar milieu” makes them into a collective that shares the same socio-cultural space, norms and values, attitude and actions. Though the term “milieu” in German can also be used as a more neutral, descriptive notion (e.g. a “social milieu”), the term “beggar milieu” (in German: “Bettlermilieu”) entails a stigmatizing undertone that is linked to ideas of a sort of opacity, criminality and pre-modernity. Thus, people within the “beggar milieu” are connoted as having a sort of both conspicuous and suspicious social cohesion outside of the majority population of honest, respectable citizens.

Newspapers discursively connect to this, as the press provides additional information that most of the beggars are “Roma”. Thus, newspapers, social media and online articles mark these people ethno-culturally and create what amounts to an ethno-political discourse around beggars. From time to time, the tabloid press associates the targeted group with diseases and insecurity and describes it as a threat for the domestic population. For example, the press in Karlstadt reported that the square in front of the train station was in the process of turning into a slum populated by “African drug dealers”, “beggars” and “criminal asylum seekers” (anonymised yellow press article n°1). Other articles reported that the faecal remains and waste at these people’s sleeping places had led to a plague of rats, potentially transmitting diseases and causing an epidemic (anonymised yellow press article n°2). A tabloid press editorial testified that the writer could prove that Romanian “pimps of the beggar mafia” were forcing victims of human trafficking onto the street, and described them as “poor devils” and “trafficked slaves” (anonymised yellow press articles n°3 and 4). In sum, these beggars are suspicious and even disease-infested victims of their own people and have no agency. According to the government and to police reports, people referred to as beggars move like “nomads” between different Austrian cities (anonymised official report n°1). In one report, it is highlighted in bold letters that “within just one week approximately 50% of the beggars had been replaced” (anonymised official report n°2). Hence, beggars are given the status of passive objects that are moved around by unknown agents who are, supposedly, members of the “mafia”.

In addition, activist platforms and associations, whose numbers include a few people who identify publically as “Roma”, thereby ascribing themselves to the tradition of the international Roma activist movement since the late 1960s (Leggio and Matras 2017: 4), contribute to an ethnic image of these begging individuals. Roma are often described as a “population group” or even a “Volksgruppe”. Activist groups add the information that these “Roma” begging on the street have been discriminated and marginalized throughout the centuries, but without challenging the group category (anonymised flyer n°1). Often, however, activists attach more neutral and social-problem-oriented categorizations to people begging on the streets, such as “emergency travellers” or “poverty migrants”. These categorizations are also predominantly used by NGOs and non-state human rights and activist platforms.

To sum up, this section sketched out how different, sometimes independent actors discursively create “Roma beggars” as an ethno-political and ethno-cultural phenomenon. The main argument of this paper is, however, that the “Roma beggar” as an “epistemic object and policy target” (Surdu and Kovats 2015) is produced within, and connected to, particular regimes-of-(im)mobility. Therefore, it is vital to address the phenomenon at hand not only through critical discourse analysis (e.g. Wodak 2010), but also by using the varied tools that mobility studies provide. To phrase it differently, the main question that remains unanswered is the following one: How can a regime-of-(im)mobility approach be conducive to understanding and reconstructing the socio-political figure of the “Roma beggar”? To answer this question, the following section presents sample drillings through the sediments of the regime-of-(im)mobility for “Roma beggars” in Karlstadt. I use concepts and insights from mobility studies to determine and drill these boreholes. I will shed light on discourses, practices and policies related to transport, the criminalization of movement, and the establishment and enforcement of invisible physical and acoustic borders, as well as to the education and training of beggars and to stillness and deportability.

8.3 Discourses, Practices and Policies Governing “Roma Beggars” (and Others) in Karlstadt

The use of infrastructures of – or for – mobility makes visible the fact that “people are in very different and unequal positions with regard to infrastructures of mobility” (Korpela 2016: 115). In Karlstadt, infrastructures and transportation facilities, and even public toilets, are employed by public authorities, which either normalize or un-normalize their uses in the context of mobility, including criminalizing their use in certain circumstances or by certain groups. Therefore, if there is one basic feature of transnational begging that is both brought about by regimes-of-(im)mobility and regulated in them, it is transport.

8.3.1 Criminalizing Transport

People’s mobility to and from Karlstadt depends on an infrastructure which itself constitutes an essential pillar of begging. Generally, a regime-of-(im)mobility for routes and roads (e.g. highways, local streets) regulates the movement of people and goods. It sanctions and legitimizes certain activities (e.g. tourism or business), defines entitlements (driving or transportation licence) and classifies objects (e.g. dangerous goods, passengers or approved vehicles). In the given case, transport intersects with a regime-of-(im)mobility for “Roma beggars”.

There is a significant, constant mobility of people taking place between poor South Eastern countries and Western and Northern European countries. This mobility is to a large degree engendered by EU policies of freedom of movement: many of these highly mobile people do not only use official public transport, but rely on rides or private carpooling. The drivers offering these rides to any passengers, including people who travel for begging, are using the enhanced structures of a “supply chain capitalism” (Tsing 2009, cit. in Kesselring 2014: 6). It is most unlikely that any of these uncountable drivers between Eastern and Western Europe might be punished based on the fact that the people transported, the passengers, go straight to work selling their labour on the capitalist market once they are dropped off at destination. No “normal” driver is held accountable for what passengers do, unless he or she is involved in some sort of criminal activity (e.g. human trafficking or a bank robbery). Yet, in Karlstadt, when a passenger jumps out of the car and goes more or less straight to a begging place, the driver is punished, based on a specific law on begging. According to the public security law applied, offering a ride to someone who wants to beg is criminalized, despite the fact that in 2012 the Austrian constitutional court considered begging an act of free expression and communication (i.e. expressing one’s situation as a poor person), anchored in the European Convention on Human Rights. Hence, in a number of cases in Karlstadt, drivers were fined based on this specific law regulating the (im)mobility of “Roma beggars”. These fines rested on the claim that the drivers were contributing to the “organizing of begging”. In one case, a police officer saw someone jump out of a car and followed him, testifying that the passenger went straight to a begging place. After checking the IDs of both the former passenger and the driver, police issued a substantial fine to the driver. His activity of transporting a “beggar” to Karlstadt was considered an administrative offence, which violated public security law. This kind of practice is backed up by police routines. In most of the cases, and even in court decisions, officials base their judgement primarily not on the wording of a law, but on supplementary notes. These notes substantiate the law on begging in the federal state. Originally, they stem from the discussion of the draft law in parliament. In any event, these notes are part of the legal regulation that defines “organizing begging” as an administrative offence:

The term “organizing begging” must be interpreted in a broad sense and encompasses means which are conducive to establishing and maintaining an underlying “logistic”, such as providing cars to travel to the places where people go begging, agreements amongst beggars regarding the places at which a particular person should beg, or the reception and safekeeping or investment of the money made through begging (Translation of the supplementary notes added to the security law of the corresponding state).

According to a “rational” idea of a law, any law should provide guidelines for its efficient and effective enforcement, especially if its violation is explicitly backed up by a threat of harsh punishment. Hence, from a normative view, issuing a fine to a transporter-driver would be understood as reacting to a lack of regulation, in this case regulating (im)proper reasons for transporting people. However, the alternative, discursive view of the law proposed here is that the relevant passage allows great scope for interpretation by the law enforcement agents, i.e. the police. In addition, it opens the door to legal insecurity and creates problems of justiciability. What is even more important is that it promotes an uneven application of the law.

Technically, the security law on begging applied in Karlstadt could be defined as badly designed. Its effectiveness and power can however only be grasped when it is seen as part of a regime-of-(im)mobility. Other incidents from my fieldwork support this argument. Some of the beggars had the chance to use a bike from time to time to move around in town, e.g. from the sleeping places in the outskirts. Some of the beggars reported that they were subject to police controls, being interrogated about the origin of the bike they used. Hence, the beggars saw themselves forced to prove that the bike belonged to them and was not stolen. Once, when I was able to pass on an old bike to someone, the man asked me to give him a sort of written warrant of donation that this was actually a gift from me. By asking this, he was obviously drawing upon a collective, shared experience and strategy amongst peers. Karlstadt is not generally known for permanent checks on people riding bikes. None of the “local” people I know there carried any kind of certificate around town to prove that a bike they used was theirs.

These two incidents, i.e. the fine against the transporter-drivers and suspicions against bike-riding “Roma” in town, are indicative of a general aspect: the control of mobility as part of a particular regime-of-(im)mobility for “Roma beggars” in Karlstadt. Both local government reports on “begging” and the special police reports they cite show a strong concern about the increasing mobility of “beggars” from Romania, not only between the two countries, but also in town. One way to interpret this result is to understand the local control and criminalization of transport in the context of begging as a sort of “repair work” to deal with unintended or unwanted consequences, paradoxes and contradictions in intra-EU labour mobility (Engbersen et al. 2017; Horvath et al. 2017: 309).

8.3.2 Invisibilizing Borders

A specific regime-of-(im)mobility for “Roma beggars” regulates not only their transportation, but also their whereabouts. In some locations within the centre of Karlstadt, begging has been completely prohibited for some years. The underlying “city” law (local scale) refers to the above-mentioned public security law in the corresponding federal state (regional scale). Though the constitutional legality of this ban on begging is highly contested by a local, independent human rights network, it is still considered valid as of 2019 – and thus enforced by police. This municipal decree defines particular pedestrian areas where narrow streets are enclosed by houses as de jure no-go zones for beggars. However, even in wider spaces, such as squares, begging is forbidden, even though the ban is limited to a distance of 3 m from the surrounding walls. If you are begging too close to the wall, you are fined. Therefore, to be sure not to beg within the “forbidden zone”, one literally needs to measure 3 m from the wall delimiting the legal territory for begging. For a normal spectator or passer-by, no such borderline is visible at all. There is no physical sign or public street map which would indicate to a normal person moving around town the exact point when they are entering or leaving one of these “forbidden streets”. The border exists only if and when someone is identified or differentiated as a beggar by the state authorities, i.e. the police, or by local shop owners, who are also well informed about these invisible borders. The authorities then apply practices of control and criminalization (i.e. issuing fines) based on situationally activated, differentiated knowledge.

The application of related categories (prohibited versus non-prohibited zone), the patterns of perception and the inbuilt problematics and arbitrariness can be exemplified by another report on begging, issued by the local government in favour of a renewal of the existing anti-begging legislation:

There is a beggar with a dog sitting at the corner of Hermann-Weiter Street and Schmid Lane (Kreuzinger fashion store). The dog sits in Schmid Lane (begging prohibited) and the man around the corner in Hermann-Weiter Street (begging currently not prohibited). Several packages of dog food lie around the beggar, so that the beggar takes up a space of approximately 1.5 to 2 square metres. (Translation from official report No. 2)

How can this short quote from the municipal report be interpreted? Neither the report, nor state security law directly classifies dogs as beggars. Thus, dogs can sit freely either in the forbidden or non-forbidden zone. However, the incident is reported here in a portrayal that describes both dog and beggar as causing problems to the normal circulation of delivery vans and taxis in this part of the pedestrian zone. The dog is thus included in the problem construction related to the different regimes-of-(im)mobility that are applied in this particular space.

These examples show that applying different bodies of knowledge to particular people or other beings leads to differentiation. Differentiation, in turn, amounts to an enhanced rationalization of action, to a materialization and naturalization of the invested knowledge. This is because it is only by materializing that knowledge that one can “see” the beggar sitting on this or that side of the invisible border demarcating the forbidden zone. By this means, people – in this case the “beggar” and other people or objects surrounding him or her – can be involved in, or excluded from, differential practices, e.g. practices of controlling, punishing, insulting or filing a complaint at the police. Different regimes of mobility are applied, e.g. the regime-of-(im)mobility for public space against the regime-of-(im)mobility for beggars. The latter is dependent on the assessment that these beggars literally “violate” the mobility rules in public space and thus have to be treated as a public security threat, for example by simply sitting at the side of a street. As a consequence, the now rated and (de)valued beggar can be treated differently, thus reinforcing or producing inequalities with regard to the rights and entitlements these people have in certain places.

However, borders are not only imagined as geographic. The active process of bringing about borders, which then rationalizes the unequal treatment of (im)mobile people, can also rely on other physical manifestations and perceptions, such as sound. Often, beggars say Griass di’ (Austrian dialect for greeting someone) or alles Gute für die Familie (“best wishes to the family”) to by-passers in German. However, the loudness or intensity of a beggar’s voice saying Griass di’ from a sitting position on the ground can be estimated as too loud in the sense of not being quiet or gentle enough to be considered part of a “legal” practice of begging. How can that be?

In the public and administrative discourse in Karlstadt, “legal” begging is commonly referred to as “silent begging”. Thus “silent begging” is considered the legitimate form as against the legally codified and penalized opposite, i.e. “aggressive begging” and “organized begging”. In two cases I know, beggars were fined by a police officer based on such a distinction based on loudness as a “lack of gentleness”. The fines amounted to the begging money of approximately 2 weeks’ gross income earned by sitting on the street from the morning to the evening. Luckily, with the help of a local activist, the beggars were able to bring their cases to court. The local activist, working on a voluntary basis, had already objected to several hundred fines on several occasions and appeared in court several times as a representative of the affected persons who, in most cases, could not be in Karlstadt when the court hearing took place. In one case the local activist achieved the annulment of the fine at the administrative court. The judge rejected a police officer’s judgement, previously considered sound, as untenable. However, this kind of court victory is not easy to achieve. For someone living on the street for weeks, with no knowledge of the local language nor jurisdiction, an achievement like this depends on support networks and infrastructures which help to navigate official timelines, administrative procedures and juridical knowledge. In many similar cases, people decided to pay the bill without appealing, hoping not to get into further trouble. No one knows the exact number of these cases based on the classification of a beggar’s attitude as an administrative offence. However, the police report that within 4 years of enforced controls on beggars in the city, several hundred fines were issued for “aggressive begging” and “organized begging” against people in the “begging milieu”, and most of these fines had already been legally upheld.

8.3.3 Educating Beggars

Beggars who are subject to the (im)mobility regime on begging do not only have to apply available knowledge, e.g. to be safe and to avoid getting fined. They also have to acquire a specific, new knowledge, which I call “expert knowledge for beggars”. Such knowledge is acquired partly through being “educated” or “schooled” on the rules and norms of the regime-of-(im)mobility on begging. These rules define, amongst other things, where and when it is allowed to beg, including the fact that nobody has the right to send them away if they stick to the rules. In the following I will show two things: firstly, how street-level bureaucrats (police, social street work) educate beggars on how to be “good”, silent, non-invasive beggars and, secondly, how even supporters (NGO professionals, individual helpers and activists) provide a sort of “tutoring” or “training” for beggars on how to avoid getting into conflict.

Beggars in Karlstadt were “educated” by police patrols and by social street workers right before and after a new legislation on begging was locally enforced. These “education” efforts for beggars were appraised in the media, accompanied by photographs showing nicely acting police officers bending down to sitting beggars, handing them an information sheet with a street map. It is indicative that street work through a private NGO was for the first time co-financed through local tax money and was systematically introduced right at the time before the new ban on begging was enforced. The following quote from some of my ethnographic notes exemplifies this entanglement of NGO street work with the regulative regime. It documents my walk through the zone in the city centre accompanying a street worker. On that day, the ban on begging had just been put in place. Nonetheless, for an introductory phase of 2 weeks people were not immediately fined, but only informed about the law’s enforcement and asked to move out of the forbidden zone with a “friendly nudge”:

Christina (the street worker) tells me on her initiative and slightly agitated, that she feels like she is on guard duty (she uses the German word Wachdienst). She has to walk through prohibited roads and squares and has to inform the people about the zonal ban on begging, but no one is there (field note n°1).

Obviously, this quote from my field notes reveals that people were no longer present in the prohibited zone and already begging somewhere else in town. This situation can to some extent be understood as an effect of the beggars’ monthly meetings with their supporters and NGO representatives (professionals from shelters etc.) in town. Around the time when the zonal ban on begging was issued, professionals from one of the NGOs co-organizing the monthly meeting handed out official maps. On this extract from the city map, the hard to detect and sometimes arbitrary no-go zones for beggars were marked and thus became visible, providing specific “expert knowledge” for beggars. However, many of the participants were not used to reading maps, were illiterate and usually explained localities by referring to their visual appearance (e.g. “the church with the three doors”). In reaction to this, the professionals showed them pictures of the squares, streets and markets which were part of the information material that the municipal administration distributed in town, thus spatializing and materializing the regime-of-(im)mobility for beggars. Around the same time, some “guests” were also invited to the meetings, such as a high-up representative of the municipality or a representative of the local child welfare and protection unit. Many times, activists and NGO professionals “instructed” people on how to avoid problems or evictions, e.g. by telling them that they should not hang around or sleep under the bridge in large numbers (which meant that many people ended up not protecting themselves from possible aggression at night). This monthly “space of negotiating practices” (Tsianos et al. 2009: 2) within the regime-of-(im)mobility has manifold facets. However, for the scope of this chapter, it is safe to say that the meetings served as a major hub to regulate and negotiate a number of issues which are central for begging in Karlstadt.

These two aspects – the education of beggars through “street-level bureaucracy” (Lipsky 1980) and the tutoring and training of beggars by supporters and activists – are somehow complementary and, in practice, highly entangled and ambivalent, both being a core part of the regime-of-(im)mobility for “Roma beggars”. I therefore look at both the effects and non-effects that come with these practices: firstly, local authorities’ concerns about knowledgeable beggars, secondly, the internalization and subjectivation of the begging people as beggars and, thirdly, the surprising non-criminalization of supporters and activists, though they provided beggars with logistics and infrastructure.

The direct education and training of “Roma beggars” in Karlstadt had its impacts. Both police reports and newspaper articles stated that beggars in Karlstadt grew knowledgeable over the course of time, in the sense of being aware of the specific rules that can put them in danger and thus they tried to adhere to the rules. For example, some moved to other parts of town for their begging activity. As a consequence, the originally intended effects of both education and criminalization have been under permanent discussion and assessed ambivalently by different actors contributing to the regime of (im)mobility on begging. In addition, the sometimes heterogeneous practices which I presented do not only represent a sort of schooling or education for “Roma beggars”. As they offer possibilities to acquire expert knowledge on “begging”, these practices are equally connected to an internalization and a certain form of subjectivation of the people as “Roma beggars” in two senses: firstly, in the sense of accepting being treated as a representative of a certain social, political figure with an inferior position (a “beggar”), but – as a “European” citizen – surprisingly with rights to free mobility; secondly, in the sense of making sense of this subjectivation in the context of one’s experiences. When asked about their first experience on the street as a “beggar”, many of my interviewees expressed their strong feeling of humiliation and that they had no other choice than to grow accustomed to this situation. Moreover, sitting there and not being able to move or do anything in this situation was often referred to as something very difficult to bear and cope with at the beginning. Hence, something that has been shown in research on flight crews at the intersection of mobility and workplace studies (Huchler and Dietrich 2013) is also true for beggars: in order to make begging a reliable and safe activity and to ensure its functionality, i.e. bringing as much money back home as possible, begging entails a high level of subjectification and self-exploitation and, last but not least, it demands heightened personal discipline.

Besides these effects, I would like to examine a surprising non-effect: the non-criminalization of particular activities, logistics and infrastructures which are a core part of making transnational begging possible. Each form of mobility requires a particular system or even a number of such systems, which enable movement in the first place (Urry 2007, p. 12). This is also true of transnational begging. The different scenes, congregations, spaces, circles and activities which are key to enabling begging can heuristically be understood as mobility systems in the sense of John Urry, as underlying logistics and infrastructures. Bearing this in mind, it astonished me from an analytical perspective that, at least up to now, none of the reported activities has been criminalized as a part of the “underlying ‘logistic’” for “organizing begging”. This could be easily done based on the supplementary notes to the state security law mentioned above: the monthly meetings (supported by a church), the shelter (partly financed through local tax money and donations), the joint meetings of supporters with beggars in the park or the writing of begging signs in German, to name a few activities. A system of this type and its regime also encompass transport facilities for people and money, smartphones, “emergency numbers” to contact supporters, informal meetings at sleeping places, and so on. All of these are somehow interwoven into and productive for the regime-of-(im)mobility for “Roma beggars”, shaping the manifestations of begging in Karlstadt.

8.3.4 Criminalization Through Victimization

As I have shown, the regime-of-(im)mobility presents itself in manifold ambivalent and contradictory ways. However, if there is one pivotal form of infrastructure for controlling, enabling and constraining mobility and immobility in town, it is police patrols and related counting and reporting techniques. They are responsible for bringing about a particular “rationalized” knowledge which, in turn, enables certain forms of unequal treatment of differentiated people in the name of security, especially for the sake of particularly “vulnerable” people. Hence, it is no wonder that due to official police statements, within 4 years more than 7000 identity checks were carried out in town on persons whom the police declared to be “associated with the beggar milieu” (anonymised official report n°3). This generalized suspicion against the “beggar milieu” is also manifest in the formation of the special police subunit, which was established some years ago: the “temporary investigation team against exploitation through begging”. When I met the head of this small police subunit for the first time, he insisted on the “against exploitation” part. It is very revealing that in the media and even in government documents this unit is commonly referred to as the “temporary investigation team on begging”.

According to a recent report (anonymised official report n°2), the temporary investigation team had filed criminal charges in more than 80 instances against over 60 people, due to alleged robbery, blackmail, human trafficking, theft by housebreaking, criminal assault or coercion, quite apart from several hundred administrative offences, as mentioned above. The official municipal report, based on police information, neither explains how many of these cases resulted in convictions, nor quantifies or differentiates between the criminal offences of “coercion” on the one hand (which can easily lead to charges being filed after a dispute between agitated people on the street) and “human trafficking” on the other hand. And, finally, no information is given on how police officers observing these reported criminal incidents or processing data in their offices managed to link these people to the “beggar milieu”, or what the suspected criminals actually had to do with the beggars sitting on the street. No definition of the “beggar milieu” is given at all. What this case clearly shows is that the supposedly rational knowledge which can be found in laws, local decrees, reports of all kinds or even in booklets with “rules for beggars” (which I will discuss below) is characterized by two main aspects: first, it leads people to believe that this kind of knowledge can be effectively applied and used to regulate both mobility and immobility. Secondly, on closer examination, this kind of knowledge is in fact highly instable and arbitrary. However, it is exactly these characteristics that contribute “positively” to the power of a regime-of-(im)mobility for “Roma beggars” in Karlstadt, both producing and governing (in)security. This must be seen within the wider, historical picture of the state-security nexus.

The generalized suspicion against the “beggar milieu” predates the concrete measures and activities within the corresponding regime-of-(im)mobility. In a fundamental way, the concepts of the “beggar milieu”, of “organized begging” and “aggressive begging” are imaginaries rooted in a deep historical, culturalized and politicized discourse on the criminality, thievishness and dishonesty of vagabonds or rootless people of all kinds. There is an abundance of descriptions on who should be hindered from “sticking” to the city at any cost. Hence, the public security law and, in particular, the corresponding article on begging within the federal state to which Karlstadt belongs can be understood as a vagrancy law. Such legal regulations are a core means of bringing about the category of the vagrant as a particular suspicious mobile subject, as a “nightmare figure for a settled society”, while vagrancy laws have been travelling “across the western world over several hundred years” (Cresswell 2011b: 240).

The legitimacy and authority of “modern” nation states as complex systems of rule and governance are fundamentally based on the claim to provide social security for the individual members of a sedentary national society within a national system of social mobility, e.g. through participation within the institutions of the life course regime (Raithelhuber 2018). Hence, to date, the conception of particular people and their living conditions as “vulnerable” and the subsequent definition of needs and associated responsibilities (both of the national community and of the individual) to solve this disadvantageous situation are a core part of any system of social security (Raithelhuber et al. 2018). In this “modern” context, “vulnerability” is constructed in a dual sense: firstly as a state in which the individual is incapable of progressively changing this situation and secondly as the status of an individual who depends upon external resources to return to normality, i.e. to regain the state of a non-dependent, self-reliable and mobile “worker citizen” (Anderson 2015). However, “beggars” from abroad, i.e. people who are not considered part of the national society (unlike citizens, denizens etc.) are not in a position to raise any claims within the dominant, state-based social security system. They must construct an image of vulnerability that directly addresses individual passers-by they meet in public spaces, since most “Roma beggars” lack access to other local spaces, such as private, social networks (e.g. families, communities) or social services (e.g. health services, needs-based minimum benefit systems etc.). Public space, however, is primarily defined as the dynamic, ephemeral social relatedness of mobile people: people who show through their geographical movement that they are “able” men and women, capable of keeping up with the rhythms of self-responsible life. Hence, any way of representing an individual vulnerability that can be relieved through cash donations “within” the patterns and manifestations of the mobile figure is considered illegitimate. For example, in Karlstadt, as in many other cities, any activity that is considered to be “following” or “tracking” people in public space in search for money, or “blocking” the movement of people in flow or even irritating these moving people by speaking directly to them is considered a case of “aggressive begging” and, thus, is punished. So, one could ask, how can begging been done in the correct manner? If someone cannot be an “able citizen”, how can they at least be an “able beggar”? The key to this answer is the production of the “able beggar” through stillness, which will be explained in the following section.

8.3.5 Stillness

Though the corresponding security in Karlstadt’s law only defines what is not allowed (“aggressive begging” and “organized begging”), a couple of years ago the city issued a booklet in several languages titled “our most important rules for beggars”. In this brochure, rule number one reads as follows: “begging is only allowed in silence”. It is followed by explanations that beggars are neither allowed to speak to people, nor to touch them, nor to beg in a group, nor to beg with children and so on. So, if so many things are obviously (or better: confusingly) forbidden, how can one nevertheless be a beggar?

At the back of the booklet, an interpretation of begging is provided. It includes a moral legitimation of this kind of activity (e.g. nourishing children back home). Considering all the rules from beginning to end, this moral legitimation is granted only if and when an activity is that of an “able” beggar: an individual who is not forced to beg by others, who is able to beg independently and able to move into this immobile position across hundreds, even thousands of kilometres only within a legitimized form of mobility (e.g. like a tourist travelling by public transport or a private car). Neither the beggar booklet nor state security law provide a clear “positive” image of how exactly begging should be done. However, looking at artefacts, pictorial representations and texts regulating begging it becomes clear that stillness, both in the sense of motionlessness and quietness, seems to be the only acceptable form of practising begging. Yet, stillness in public space seems to be a problem, calling for the further differentiation and categorization of related activities and objects, as shown in the following examples.

According to previous law-making by the Austrian constitutional court in 2012, a partial, limited ban on begging can be issued in principle, but only if the number of people begging in a certain area impede the use of public space in a way that produces a “deplorable” state of affairs. Hence, the documents supporting a ban on begging have to define in detail the conditions under which such a deplorable state of affairs can be claimed. Thus, official documents issued by the city administration portrayed and discussed begging as a disturbance of the public order. The corresponding administrative report did so by differentiating between “sitting beggars” and “photo-taking tourists”, maybe because the city of Karlstadt is visited by millions of photo-taking tourists each year (versus a few hundred beggars). The document argues that the core difference between beggars and tourists is that “photo-taking tourists” move on after taking a picture. Hence, according to the report, in contrast to only temporarily stopping tourists, “sitting people constrict the flow through the narrow lanes and produce dangerous bottlenecks”. Pointing to no further substantiated police statistics, the report indicates that this supposedly raises the threat of pickpockets – a characteristic that is not attached to tourist groups, which were my greatest horror when moving around town.

This example shows that the beggar is directly and indirectly displayed as a “vulnerabilising” figure for others, i.e. normal people using public spaces. However, the beggar is also portrayed as vulnerable and in danger. The reason given for this is not his or her marginalized living conditions “back home” (in this case the shanty towns in Romania), which could explain the presence of this person in situ. Quite the contrary, the reason presented in the official documents justifying a ban on begging is his/her stillness as a beggar. This becomes very clear in the following document. This time, it is not “photo-taking tourists” who are compared to “sitting beggars”, but children on their way to school. The report describes that in the morning hours, when still few tourists roam the centre, delivery vehicles move through narrow streets to supply local shops and hotels in the pedestrian zone. The report discusses what this situation means with regard to “sitting beggars” (immobile objects) and “schoolchildren” (mobile objects) for an average driver of a delivery van:

Beggars are endangered in their physical integrity through suppliers pulling in with vans, because as statically sitting persons they are not positioned within the typical visibility field in which people are expected to appear. Of course, schoolchildren are often also not taller than beggars. But they are, firstly, not static (i.e. as a general rule, they avoid approaching trucks) and, secondly, due to their movement they come into the drivers’ field of vision much easier, they wear protective jackets [sic] most of the time and usually do not stay in front of shops. Accordingly, the[ir] risk [of being endangered] is reduced (municipal document, cited in the reasons for the decision of the Austrian constitutional court).

This passage is one intended to provide an argument for the restriction of a fundamental human right by showing that beggars’ use of public space produces a deplorable state of affairs. In my eyes, the picture drawn here involving schoolchildren lacks empirical examination. Also, the municipal document does not discuss other possibilities to protect the supposedly “vulnerable” beggars, e.g. by handing out reflective jackets (this is what pupils wear on their way to school, not “protective jackets”) or by teaching beggars to stand up and, in a supposedly childlike manner, “avoid approaching trucks”. However, besides seeking the “real” truth, what is obvious here is that a certain truth and knowledge about begging and beggars in public space is produced by such reports, connected to stillness. At its core, this knowledge operates with the flickering image of both the vulnerable and the “vulnerabilizing” beggar.

8.3.6 Deportability

Thus far, it has been argued that stillness, in particular, is both a challenge for beggars themselves and a precondition for being considered and legitimized as a “silent beggar”. Hence, the only way in which begging is developed “positively” is within the figure of the “able beggar”. However, there are inconsistencies inscribed into this figure. Whatever shape it takes, the figure of the beggar is an unwanted one. There are always simply “too many”. They should not be there at all. They should go home. At least this is what “beggars” often hear from passing citizens or police officers.

In Karlstadt, the discursively produced vulnerability of the “Roma beggar”, which predates the effectiveness of the measures within the regime-of-(im)mobility, culminates metaphorically in a rumour: a word goes around every few weeks in the peer group. Then the word is expressed as a concern to local supporters. Finally, in turn, supporters see themselves forced to disclaim that this will ever happen. The word is deportation. Every once in a while someone claims that someone local has told someone else that begging is about to be totally forbidden in town and that all the people will be sent back home in buses. The persistence of this inextinguishably circulating rumour is also reflected in one of my field reports. It documents an address by an activist to the participants of the monthly meeting of “beggars” and “newspaper sellers”. In this particular situation, the speaker (Marina) positioned herself in front of the crowd sitting at the tables:

After Marina has welcomed the participants she says that she wants to clarify some things and then (she continues): “Begging will not be forbidden here”. Thereupon, or after the translation [from German to Romanian], the whole room reacts strongly with affirmation and happiness. Marina continues: “And we will not drive you home by bus to Romania”. Once again, the participants loudly express their appreciation and delight at this statement (minutes of monthly meeting n°3).

This small scene reflects a general feature of the “Roma beggar” in Karlstadt: deportability.

8.4 Discussion

Regarding deportability, the findings from Karlstadt match similar findings from other studies on the ethno-cultural construction of “Roma”. One very basic feature of the regime-of-(im)mobility for “Roma beggars” is the ethno-politicization of these people and, finally, their categorization as deportable and as being too many in number. Hepworth (2012) showed in her ethnographic study in Italy that the construction of “Roma” as “abject European citizens” is built basically on their deportability. Leaning on the work of De Genova (2010), for Hepworth deportability does not only encompass a high risk, a heightened vulnerability or a probability of being sent back. Deportability is also constructed through everyday security practices employed by the government and police as well as through discourses. In Hepworth’s case, these discourses were created to justify the demolishment of Roma camps and their eviction from these living places (Hepworth 2012: 440). This, in turn, opens up the insecurity and randomness of whether someone is categorized amongst the group of those who can stay or whether that person counts as someone who belongs to the “too many”. Deportability is one of the basic lessons that the regime-of-(im)mobility for “Roma beggars” teaches not only those who move within this pattern (the “beggars”), but also the many others who are supposedly mobile outside of these patterns (the “citizens”). One core feature that visualizes and materializes these differentiations is connected to a particular production of stillness.

Producing stillness can be reconstructed as a core element of a regime-of-(im)mobility for beggars, which implies people having to cope with certain forms of (bodily) subjectivations and internalizations. Within this regime, the only “legal” way to produce this kind of need or vulnerability is the stilled, sitting, isolated, autonomous body which turns into the only means to access resources (i.e. donations), while the only available resources are those of “private”, able citizen-individuals moving in a public open space. On the one hand, this stilled, but unrealizable, deceptive figure of the able beggar and its characteristics challenge the movements of those who go with the “normal” flow (Bissell and Fuller 2013: 5). As Cresswell and Merriman note, “staying still (insofar as such a thing is possible) is also a notable practical positioning in the face of surrounding mobilities and the compulsion to move” (Cresswell and Merriman 2011: 5). Besides just being an “effect” of the corresponding mobility regime, the immobility and stillness of the “begging body” can also be seen as entailing a certain power or potentiality. It is brought about precisely through the embodied quality of not being on the move or of not moving, as Bissell and Fuller write with reference to Elias Canetti:

[T]he power of the stilled body (whether standing or sitting) emerges in its display of vulnerability. A closing down of its potential for movement or defence. (Bissell and Fuller 2013: 2)

On the other hand, the stillness of the beggar also validates and reinforces the corresponding position of the citizen at the same time. The (im)mobile outsider in place – the “Roma beggar” – becomes socially explained in his or her mobility and positioned as an immobile, object-like, stilled being in multiple senses. Nonetheless, this constructed, present inability to be mobile as a citizen (physically and socially) entails an ambivalence, power and potentiality which, in turn, leads to a number of possible, mostly distant reactions, e.g. by raising suspicion, rejection, hatred, violence, charity or control. As a consequence, this production of vulnerability through stillness within the regime-of-(im)mobility for beggars and, vice versa, the production of stillness through vulnerability leads finally to the production of the only legitimate, object-like beggars, referred to in Karlstadt as “silent beggars”. Silent beggars are those who, according to public discourse, practices and policies, are closest to the figure of the “able beggar”. However, even if beggars behave that way, their presence as (im)mobile objects in public space intersects and clashes with other regimes-of-(im)mobility, for example those related to transportation, tourism or traffic. As a consequence, the “able beggar” is an unrealizable, deceptive figure that, under real conditions, flips into the “Roma beggar”. Both figures are created by this “stillness-as-Other”.

Hence, the ethno-political construction of the “Roma beggar” is one of the many figures which are conceptualized and activated as the citizens’ “Other” (Anderson 2013), in a much clearer way than any other figure or subject. Ultimately, the “Roma beggar” reflects the inbuilt “Otherness of citizenship” (De Genova 2015: 201), as this figure is one discursively activatable and materially stabilized aspect of the Otherness operating within the concept of citizenship itself. There, it is based on particular values and demarcates something supposedly “outside” of citizenship, that does not fit in with the citizen and his or her mobility. In my opinion, this is what the definition and governance of particular populations as unwanted by and unbearable for the citizen teaches “us” about “them”. All of these figures are constitutive, productive and “necessary” for unequally commanding authority over people.

Finally, these considerations raise the question of what other regimes exist alongside the regime-of-(im)mobility for “Roma beggars”, which is only one of the many simultaneously present. Studies following the No Borders approach have already highlighted that “borders follow [all] people and surround them as they try to access paid labour, welfare benefits, health, labour protections, education, civil associations, and justice” (Anderson et al. 2009: 6). They have demonstrated that related processes of bordering are interwoven and thus invisibilized and naturalized in the everyday life of all kinds of people (and not just of “migrants”) and that these processes impact on the subjectivities of “citizens” and “aliens” alike (Anderson 2015: 185; Mezzadra and Neilson 2013). Besides providing substantial findings on the governance and construction of “Roma beggars” in an Austrian city, I therefore argue that this paper demonstrates the richness of an empirical and theoretical orientation which lies at the intersection of (im)mobilities and social (de)protection, amended by a No Borders perspective, to analyse critical issues commonly framed by other concepts and dealt with under “migration studies”, “welfare studies” or “citizenship studies” (Raithelhuber et al. 2018). An approach of this kind claims to liberate us from the alluring and somewhat misleading category of “migrants”. It draws attention to the practices, regulations, places, infrastructures, moorings (Hannam et al. 2006), systems or regimes that enable differential movements and forms of mobile and immobile existences among all kinds of people. This view includes sensitivity towards the qualities attached to some people through these processes, how these people are merged with objects and technologies, how their movements are traced and how they are allowed to engender and transfer value from present and past movements, or hindered in doing so. This implies sensitiveness towards their present national status, without falling into the trap of “methodological nationalism” (Wimmer and Glick Schiller 2002). While the conceptual focus on social protection or de-protection was beyond the pragmatic intention and feasibility of this paper, I have hopefully been able to show one essential thing: that looking at the “Roma beggar” through the prism of a regimes-of-(im)mobility approach allows us to address general issues of power and inequality within this type of focus on mobilities, and to recognise the fundamental entanglement of (im)mobilities and (in)equalities (Söderström et al. 2013: 7; Salazar and Smart 2011; Shamir 2005).


  1. 1.

    All names, places, media and legal references which could identify the city, individual persons, or groups are anonymised.


  1. Adey, P. (2017). Mobility. London: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Adey, P., Bissell, D., Hannam, K., Merriman, P., & Sheller, M. (Eds.). (2014). The Routledge handbook of mobilities. Oxon: Routledge.Google Scholar
  3. Anderson, B. (2013). Us and them?: The dangerous politics of immigration control. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Anderson, B. (2015). ‘Heads I Win. Tails you Lose.’ Migration and the worker citizen. Current Legal Problems, 68, 179–196.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Anderson, B., Sharma, N., & Wright, C. (2009). Editorial: Why no borders? Refuge, 26(2), 5–18.Google Scholar
  6. Asséo, H., Petcuţ, P., & Piasere, L. (2017). Romania’s Roma: A socio-historical overview. In D. V. Leggio & Y. Matras (Eds.), Open borders, unlocked cultures: Romanian Roma migrants in Western Europe (pp. 26–56). Abingdon: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bærenholdt, J. O. (2013). Governmobility: The powers of mobility. Mobilities, 8(1), 20–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Baker, B. (2016). Regime. In N. B. Salazar & K. Jayaram (Eds.), Keywords of mobility: Critical engagements (pp. 152–170). New York: Berghahn Books.Google Scholar
  9. Bissell, D., & Fuller, G. (2013). Stillness unbound. In D. Bissell & G. Fuller (Eds.), Stillness in a mobile world (pp. 1–18). Hoboken: Taylor and Francis.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bowker, G. C., & Star, S. L. (1999). Sorting things out: Classification and its consequences. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  11. Büscher, M., & Urry, J. (2009). Mobile methods and the empirical. European Journal of Social Theory, 12(1), 99–116.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cresswell, T. (2010). Towards a politics of mobility. Environment and Planning: Society and Space, 28, 17–31.Google Scholar
  13. Cresswell, T. (2011a). Mobilities I: Catching up. Progress in Human Geography, 35(4), 550–558.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Cresswell, T. (2011b). The vagrant/vagabond: The curious career of a mobile subject. In T. Cresswell & P. Merriman (Eds.), Geographies of mobilities: Practices, spaces, subjects (pp. 239–255). Farnham: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  15. Cresswell, T., & Merriman, P. (2011). Introduction: Geographies of mobilities – Practices, spaces, subjects. In T. Cresswell & P. Merriman (Eds.), Geographies of mobilities: Practices, spaces, subjects (pp. 1–15). Farnham: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  16. D’Andrea, A., Ciolfi, L., & Gray, B. (2011). Methodological challenges and innovations in mobilities research. Mobilities, 6(2), 149–160.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. De Genova, N. (2006). The legal production of Mexican/migrant “illegality”. In S. Oboler (Ed.), Latinos and citizenship: The dilemma of belonging (pp. 61–90). New York: Palgrave.Google Scholar
  18. De Genova, N. (2010). The deportation regime: Sovereignty, space, and the freedom of movement. In N. De Genova & N. Peutz (Eds.), The deportation regime: Sovereignty, space, and the freedom of movement (pp. 33–65). Durham: Duke Univ. Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. De Genova, N. (2015). Denizens all: The otherness of citizenship. In B. Anderson & V. Hughes (Eds.), Citizenship and its others (pp. 191–202). Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  20. De Genova, N., & Peutz, N. (Eds.). (2010). The deportation regime: Sovereignty, space, and the freedom of movement. Durham: Duke Univ. Press.Google Scholar
  21. Dietrich, S. (2015). “Why are we put in prison?”– Independent Guatemalan minor migrants’ experiences of transnational childhoods. Transnational Social Review – A Social Work Journal, 5(2), 104–117.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Doughty, K., & Murray, L. (2014). Discourses of mobility: Institutions, everyday lives and embodiment. Mobilities, 9, 1–20. (2014).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Elliot, A., Norum, R., & Salazar, N. B. (Eds.). (2017). Methodologies of mobility: Ethnography and experiment. New York: Berghahn Books.Google Scholar
  24. Engbersen, G., Leerkes, A., Scholten, P., & Snel, E. (2017). The intra-EU mobility regime: Differentiation, stratification and contradictions. Migration Studies, 5, 337–355.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Gaibazzi, P., Dünnwald, S., & Bellagamba, A. (Eds.). (2017). EurAfrican borders and migration management: Political cultures, contested spaces, and ordinary lives. New York: Palgrave Macmillan US.Google Scholar
  26. Glick Schiller, N., & Salazar, N. B. (2013). Regimes of mobility across the globe. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 39(2), 183–200.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Hannam, K., Sheller, M., & Urry, J. (2006). Editorial: Mobilities, immobilities and moorings. Mobilities, 1(1), 1–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Hepworth, K. (2012). Abject citizens: Italian ‘Nomad Emergencies’ and the deportability of Romanian Roma. Citizenship Studies, 16, 431–449. (2012).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Horvath, K., Amelina, A., & Peters, K. (2017). Re-thinking the politics of migration. On the uses and challenges of regime perspectives for migration research. Migration Studies, 5(3), 301–314.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Housley, W., & Fitzgerald, R. (2009). Membership categorization, culture and norms in action. Discourse & Society, 20(3), 345–362.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Huchler, N., & Dietrich, N. (2013). Aeromobility regimes in commercial aviation: The mobile work and life arrangements of flight crews. In S. Witzgall, G. Vogl, & S. Kesselring (Eds.), New Mobilities regimes in art and social sciences (pp. 73–88). Farnham: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  32. Ilcan, S. (2013). Paradoxes of humanitarian aid: Mobile populations, biopolitical knowledge, and acts of social justice in Osire Refugee Camp. In S. Ilcan (Ed.), Mobilities, knowledge, and social justice (pp. 177–206). Montreal: McGill-Queen’s Univ. Press.Google Scholar
  33. Isin, E. F., & Nielsen, G. M. (Eds.). (2008). Acts of citizenship. London: Zed Books.Google Scholar
  34. Jeremić, V. (Ed.). (2012). From migration to deportation. Contributions to the critical analysis of the policy against Roma migrants in Europe. Belgrade: Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung.Google Scholar
  35. Kesselring, S. (2014). Mobility, power and the emerging new mobilities regimes. Sociologica.
  36. Korpela, M. (2016). Infrastructure. In N. B. Salazar & K. Jayaram (Eds.), Keywords of mobility: Critical engagements (pp. 113–132). New York: Berghahn Books.Google Scholar
  37. Leggio, D. V., & Matras, Y. (2017). How open borders can unlock cultures: Concepts, methods, and procedures. In D. V. Leggio & Y. Matras (Eds.), Open borders, unlocked cultures: Romanian Roma migrants in Western Europe (pp. 1–25). Abingdon: Routledge.Google Scholar
  38. Leko, J. (2017). Migration regimes and the translation of human rights: On the struggles for recognition of Romani migrants in Germany. Social Inclusion, 5, 77–88. (2017).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Lipsky, M. (1980). Street-level bureaucracy: Dilemmas of the individual in public services. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
  40. Magazzini, T. (2016). Cultural Institutions as a Combat Sport. Reflections on the European Roma Institute. The Age of Human Rights Journal, 7, 50–76. (2016). Scholar
  41. Manderscheid, K. (2014). Criticising the solitary mobile subject: Researching relational mobilities and reflecting on mobile methods. Mobilities, 9(2), 188–219.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Marcus, G. E. (1995). Ethnography in/of the world system: The emergence of multi-sited ethnography. Annual Review of Anthropology, 24, 95–117.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Merriman, P. (2015). Mobilities I: Departures. Progress in Human Geography, 39(1), 87–95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Mezzadra, S., & Neilson, B. (2013). Border as method, or, the multiplication of labor. Durham: Duke Univ. Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Müller, D. (2010). Flucht und Asyl in europäischen Migrationsregimen. Univ., Diss., 2010. Univ.-Verl. Göttingen, Göttingen.Google Scholar
  46. Nyers, P., & Rygiel, K. (Eds.). (2012). Citizenship, migrant activism and the politics of movement. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  47. Parker, O., & López Catalán, O. (2014). Free movement for whom, where, when? Roma EU citizens in France and Spain. International Political Sociology, 8, 379–395.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Peck, J., & Theodore, N. (2010). Mobilizing policy: Models, methods, and mutations. Geoforum, 2, 169–174.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Raithelhuber, E. (2018). Soziale (Ent)Sicherung und (Im)Mobilitäten im Nationalstaat: eine Verhältnisbestimmung von Sozialer Arbeit und Sozialer Frage. In K. Lauermann, S. Sting, & S. Blumenthal (Eds.), Soziale Arbeit und soziale Frage(n) (pp. 129–154). Opladen: Barbara Budrich.Google Scholar
  50. Raithelhuber, E., Sharma, N., & Schröer, W. (2018). The intersection of social protection and mobilities: A move towards a ‘Practical Utopia’ research Agenda. Mobilities, 13, 685–701.Google Scholar
  51. Salazar, N. B. (2012). Imaginative technologies of (Im)mobility at the ‘End of the World’. In P. Vannini, L. Budd, O. Jensen, P. Jirón, & C. Fisker (Eds.), Technologies of mobility in the Americas (pp. 237–254). New York: Lang.Google Scholar
  52. Salazar, N. B., & Jayaram, K. (2016). Keywords of mobility: Critical engagements. New York: Berghahn Books.Google Scholar
  53. Salazar, N. B., & Smart, A. (2011). Anthropological takes on (Im)mobility. Identities, 18, i–ix. (2011).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Schapendonk, J., & Steel, G. (2016). Following migrant trajectories: The Im/mobility of Sub-Saharan Africans en Route to the European Union. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 104(2), 262–270.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Schulze Wessel, J. (2017). Grenzfiguren – Zur politischen Theorie des Flüchtlings. Bielefeld: Transcipt Verlag.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Shamir, R. (2005). Without borders? Notes on globalization as a mobility regime. Sociological Theory, 23(2), 197–217.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Sigona, N., & Vermeersch, P. (2012). Editors’ introduction. The Roma in the new EU: Policies, frames and everyday experiences. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 38(8), 1189–1193.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Söderström, O., Randeria, S., Ruedin, D., D’Amato, G., & Panese, F. (2013). Critical mobilities. Lausanne: EPFL Press et al.Google Scholar
  59. Solano, P. (2017). Assisting in the shadows: Humanitarianism, shelters and transit migration politics. Lund: Lund University.Google Scholar
  60. Squire, V. (Ed.). (2010). The contested politics of mobility: Borderzones and irregularity. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  61. Surdu, M. (2016). Those who count: Expert practicies of Roma classification. Budapest: Central European University Press.Google Scholar
  62. Surdu, M., & Kovats, M. (2015). Roma identity as an expert-political construction. Social Inclusion, 3(5). Scholar
  63. Tsianos, V., Hess, S., & Karakayali, S. (2009). Transnational migration. Theory and method of an ethnographic analysis of border regimes (Working Paper No 55). Sussex: University of Sussex. Sussex Centre for Migration Research.Google Scholar
  64. Urry, J. (2007). Mobilities. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  65. Van Baar, H. (2012). Socio-economic mobility and neo-liberal governmentality in post-socialist Europe: activation and the dehumanisation of the Roma. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 38, 1289–1304.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Vermeersch, P. (2012). Reframing the Roma: EU initiatives and the politics of reinterpretation. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 38(8), 1195–1212.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Wimmer, A., & Glick Schiller, N. (2002). Methodological nationalism and beyond: Nation-state building, migration and the social sciences. Global Networks, 2(4), 301–334.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Wodak, R. (2010). Critical discourse analysis. In C. Seale, G. Gobo, & J. F. Gubrium (Eds.), Qualitative research practice (pp. 185–202). London: SAGE.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Open Access This chapter is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license and indicate if changes were made.

The images or other third party material in this chapter are included in the chapter's Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the chapter's Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder.

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Educational ScienceUniversity of SalzburgSalzburgAustria

Personalised recommendations