Accepted Paper:

State and family borderlands: the production of complex intimacies between welfare state agencies, migrant communities, and refugee families in Denmark   

Author:

Mette-Louise E. Johansen (Aarhus University)

Paper short abstract:

Exploring the ambiguity of “good parenting” at the interface between welfare state agencies and migrant families in Denmark, this paper argues that the imaginary of good citizenship is shaped through the negotiation of multiple moral orders between the state and the migrant community.

Paper long abstract:

This paper explores what shapes images and performances of good parenting among migrant parents of Palestinian descent in Denmark. Parenting has become a battlefield in which migrant families need to position themselves in order to be politically and socially recognized. Based on one year of fieldwork among Palestinian families in the largest immigrant neighborhood in Denmark, Gellerupparken, the paper asks how a group of marginalized Palestinian refugee parents with children engaged in crime experience and navigate local welfare state interventions in their family life. I argue that the parents experience the welfare state as endangering family intimacy and parent-child relationships and, thus, their interactions with welfare agencies become centered upon symbolic boundary making between state authority and family privacy. The relationship between the parents and state agencies may be highly influential in the parents' life-world, but it does not constitute their primary point of orientation in questions about good parenting practices. Instead, the parents negotiate between a plurality of moral orders and loyalties in a 'borderland' between the state, their own close kin-relations, and the local Palestinian community in Gellerupparken. In order to explore dilemmas and struggles parents experience as they are caught between competing moral orders, this paper investigates the underlying ambiguity that shapes "good citizenship" vis a vis "good parenthood" in various community relationships. The paper brings new insights into the communicative character of boundary making interactions between state and family, and the sensitive maneuvering of public performances of family practices.

Panel P115
Raising Europe: managing parents and the production of good citizens