Between logistics and migration: Duisburg and the new Silk Road

China is building a new Silk Road. One of its arteries is the Yuxinou freight railway which runs between Chongqing and the German city of Duisburg. Opened in 2011, this railway has driven growth in Duisburg’s logistical sector. But Duisburg is not only a logistical city. It is also a magnet for migration with foreign-born inhabitants averaging approximately twice the rate for Germany as a whole. This project investigates relations between transport logistics and the logistics of migration in Duisburg. Its methods combine digital research with ethnographic fieldwork (interviews, observation, visual documentation) at workplaces surrounding Duisport (the city’s logistical hub) and in the adjacent migrant neighbourhood of Marxloh. The aim is to analyse how logistics produces and connects heterogeneous urban spaces and populations. This allows critical interrogation of traditional approaches to migration (push-pull factors, labour reserve, etc.). It also permits assessment of how logistics industries affect populations beyond their workforces. The project thus explores how the digital generation of data and software orientations in industry alter the material and symbolic coordinates of the city, generating a ‘long tail’ of informal labour and mediating social reproduction as well as practices of daily life.

Researchers: Professor Brett Neilson (ICS), Professor Ned Rossiter (ICS), Tsvetelina Hristova (ICS), Professor Manuela Bojadzijev (Leuphana University Luneburg), Dr Armin Beverungen (Leuphana University Luneburg), Moritz Altenried (Leuphana University Luneburg), Mira Wallis (Leuphana University Luneburg)

Funding: Western Sydney University, as part of an external scheme by Universities Australia and German Academic Exchange Service

Period: 2017–2018