Accepted paper:

Everyday dilemmas of street-level NGO bureaucrats as migrants' representatives: the case of Poland

Authors:

Dominika Michalak (Institute of Slavic Studies, Polish Academy of Sciences)

Paper short abstract:

The subject of the presentation are the ethical and practical dilemmas NGO activists face when raising public support to influence decisions in migrants' legal cases. The presentation is based on an extensive fieldwork as well as an analysis of public interventions.

Paper long abstract:

The subject matter of the presentation is the role of NGO activists' in the cultural production of migrants' representations in the public sphere. I am interested in the dilemmas the activists face when raising public support for a migrant's legal administrative case in order to influence a bureaucratic decision. My main questions are: How do the activists, as migrants' representatives, define their ethical duties towards their clients, the public opinion and the bureaucratic institutions? How do they reconcile or mediate between those three sets of principles in practice? How do they perceive their social influence? In order to answer these questions, I study public petitions against deportation reconstructing the social context in which they are written and analyzing their form and content in the light of the dominant discourse on migration in Poland. The presentation is based on interviews with activists, a 6-moth participant observation at one of the Polish NGOs offering help to migrants as well as and analysis of the intervention texts. I argue that one of the biggest challenges for the activists is to protect migrants' privacy as both the logic of bureaucratic proceedings and the neoliberal discourse turn migrants' intimacies into central arguments in disputes over their right to stay.

panel A10
The radical politics of alterity: towards a unified analysis of 'crisis', migration and the workings of power.