View across the Spree to the Reichstagbuilding in Berlin

The IMCB22: A platform for multiple perspectives on migration and mobility

Dr Datta was born in Calcutta, India, and feels at home in many languages, including Bangla, Hindi, English and German – to just name a few. After her years at the JNU in New Delhi and some travels, Amrita took up a placement in Germany – where she still lives and works. Recently, she has been focusing on the transnational practices of the Indian Blue Card Holders and students in Germany, locating the gender-mobility interface within the larger context of Germany as an immigration society. In 2020 Dr Datta moderated the web talk series “Corona Conversations: mobility in a (post-)COVID-19 future” with support from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and the Global South Studies Center (GSSC) at the University of Cologne. Currently, together with Palgrave Macmillan, she is preparing for the publication of her first book titled Why Move?

Dr Amrita Datta received her doctoral degree from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in New Delhi, India. Through her extensive postdoctoral research on migration – especially Indian communities in Germany – Dr Amrita Datta is part of the International Metropolis Conference’s pre-working group “Impact of COVID-19 on migration and mobility”.

Dr Amrita Datta

Dr Amrita Datta

Marie Curie Fellow at the Department of Sociology, University of Siegen

Migration scholar

Dr Amrita Datta

Dr Datta, what is your current field of research?

My current project focus is on the Blue Card holders, more specifically the Indian Blue Card holders and students in Germany in higher education. I’m trying to look at the discourse of the future of migrants in Germany. Indians have actually come in quite large numbers since the Blue Card scheme was initiated by the European Union. I’m looking at the young Indians moving to Germany with the possibilities of living there for a long period, settlement or moving to another EU member state.

And – why are people moving?

One of the most important reasons is the employment situation in India as well as the health care system; the outlook for both is not exactly rosy if you’re a young person. If you look at Germany, however, relatively speaking, employment has been constantly high and Germany’s health care facilities are considered to be really good. And if you are trying to plan a sustainable and safe future, employment and health are big factors in the decision-making of people who want to migrate.

Germany has encouraged skilled migration and has pushed the EU’s Blue Card scheme, adopting its employment opportunity framework. It’s a win-win because Germany has a comparatively old population; the average age in Germany right now is 42 – and the European economy needs young workers. Moreover, the Blue Card scheme provides a real opportunity for a long-term stay, so that people who have decided to move can make a home in Germany, quite a break from the idea of the so-called guest workers some decades ago.

What comes to mind when you think about the 25th International Metropolis Conference in Berlin in September?

I was very excited when I was approached by the organisers because I really wanted to be part of it all. I think Germany is at a very interesting juncture insofar migration is concerned.

First of all, while the pandemic temporarily closed several existing migration pathways, it opened up new ones. We are all feeling the repercussions, opportunities and a shift in priorities, including on a personal level. One thing I have already observed through my current project is, despite the pandemic, the rate of immigration from India to Germany has not decreased, in fact, the pandemic has openend possibilities of new migration. Consequently, with the increasing popularity of the EU Blue Card scheme, I perceive that the visibility of Indians has increased quite a lot in the German public discourse.

The second remark I want to make regarding the why is the Russian war in Ukraine – and thus again, you can witness the resurfacing of migration as a subject of political debate in German everyday lives. I think this entire conference is happening at such an opportune time! Nobody knew that this would happen, but migration as a subject has become even more important and relevant for the public discourse in Germany. I think the conference couldn’t be happening at a better time actually.

What do you hope people can take away from your research and the work that you do? Do you have a dream in which everyone in the world agrees on a particular point and we are all better off as a result?

I would like people to start thinking about the fact that the history of migration is built on the discourse of colonialism. The history of civilisation is built around the history of colonialism and the history of migration is built on the history of colonialism. We must acknowledge that disjuncture of the world order and start acting on it instead of thinking, “Okay, who’s better than who?”

What, do you think, can the 25th International Metropolis Conference in Berlin contribute to your dream?

It’s a very good, relevant and important platform to bring the people from the ministry, policy, academia and just generally different expert areas together. This is needed. We need more diffusion of perspectives because to some extent we’re all working on solutions in parallel, but it’s the exchange that takes us forward and creates sustainable and fair solutions.

What do you think about the motto “Changing migration, migration in change”?

It’s fascinating because the entire discourse of not only migration but also mobility has changed so much. In the last few years, the world has seen so much change – change is the only constant thing. Change is also really important to consider in migration research because even in a theoretical context, if we look at uncertainty and risk, there’s a huge body of work on how uncertainty and risk feed into migration as a process, a system and an experience. It is a perfect motto.