Event—Scholarly Seminars

Lauren Stokes, Northwestern University


Racial Profiling on the U-Bahn: Policing the Berlin Gap in the Schönefeld Airport Refugee Crisis, Lauren Stokes

At the height of the Cold War, the Berlin Wall robbed East Germans of their freedom of movement while functioning as a “Berlin Gap” for others. Because Western authorities did not consider the Berlin Wall to be an international border, they did not impose border control within the divided city, turning it into one of the primary pathways for unauthorized migration into West Germany in the 1970s and 1980s. This paper argues that West German authorities responded by devising new strategies of border policing. Authorities moved the border inside of West Berlin when the police began to use racial profiling on public transit in order to find deportable foreigners. They moved the border outside of West Berlin when they successfully pressured East Germany to enforce West German visa requirements. Unable to control a border whose existence they were unable to acknowledge, officials learned to police the Berlin Gap everywhere but where a map would tell you that the border was. The strategies they devised are still in use today.