Ioana Vrabiescu researches emotional dimension of border control with NWO grant

Ioana Vrabiescu researches emotional dimension of border control with NWO grant
What would the Schengen area enlargement in 2024 mean for the daily work of border control workers? What will be the effects on the work floor and how would the border guards emotionally express their satisfaction or disappointment? For this research, organisational ethnographer Ioana Vrabiescu received a grant from NWO's Open Competition SSH-XS programme. She will be the principal investigator of the project leading to new ways of conceptualizing and debating emotions in organizations, specifically when it comes to borders and migration.

Starting 2024, Romania and Bulgaria might join the Schengen area. For many, including recent refugees from Ukraine, it will become easier to move across the EU extended territories and borders. Vrabiescu’s project will look into how practices at the EU-Schengen borders change and what kind of tension these changes create on the daily workings of border guards.

Vrabiescu, together with her research team, will conduct fieldwork at the Bucharest Otopeni Airport in Romania and at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport in the Netherlands. The research team will specifically focus on the intra-EU movement from Romania to the Netherlands, Ukrainians being an example. They will observe the daily works of the border guards at the two airports and how they apply the new regulations or make sense of bureaucratic changes.

The border is the best site to document, analyse, explain what happens when feelings come into play in situations where ethics and organisational structures overlap. The project focuses on emotions, and specifically on those triggered by certain context that have the potential to reveal personal and professional ethical positions. The resulting atmosphere at the border becomes a valuable way to engage in debates on the moral choices of people who work in border organizations.

Vrabiescu is excited to further her research with this grant. "I hope this will be just a pilot project for my future research. I aim to connect different bodies of literature and to push further and explain my concept of ethical emotions." Moreover, she stresses the importance for junior scholars to be able to conduct research and connect their research to teaching: "It is essential to conduct fieldwork research, and to analyse, interpret, and bring that knowledge to the classroom."

With the NWO Open Competition-SSH, NWO Social Sciences and Humanities wants to offer researchers the opportunity to carry out research into a subject of their own choosing without any thematic constraints.