“Disembarkation platforms”, “transit zones”, “transit procedures”, “detention camps in a no man’s land” – the question of how to govern migration has become a topic central to the political agendas of many European states again during the previous weeks. At the same time, filmmakers such as Christian Petzold have drawn our attention to the extreme predicaments that refugees in transit often face: Such migrants often have to decide whether to survive or to preserve relationships to close persons who are not permitted to move along with them. By transposing characters from Anna Seghers’ novel “Transit” (1947) to today’s Marseille, Petzold’s Transit (2018) uses surprising references to the present time hinting at the fact that neither the restriction of mobility nor the experiences of people in transit are new. What seems to be new, however, is the aggravation of the political tone in Germany – at least as compared to a time in 2015 when rights of migrants and asylum seemed to be given a more important consideration in German politics.
Anne Friedrichs (Leibniz Institute of EuropeanHistory, IEG Mainz) has edited a special issue on “migration, mobility and sedentariness” in Geschichte und Gesellschaft. She brings together contributions that explore transits between mobility and immobility in different historical contexts. Examining migration from a relational perspective enables new insights into the boundaries of the societal. Analyzing transitions between mobile and sedentary life phases and life worlds not only allows us to identify interpretative ambivalences and changes in how mobility is differentiated and evaluated. As we grasp that human movement and immobility are mutually constituted, we also gain insights into the different dynamics involved in shaping social life and societal order, as well as into the ways in which these processes intersect with one another. This new research perspective helps to achieve a better understanding of conflicts over the norms and values that define a collective or society, and thus contributes to a historiography that is sensitive to the historical variability of what is perceived as “distance” or “nearness”, and that considers different actors’ perspectives in its analytical categories. Table of contents TOC GG 44/2 (2018)