Karen Fog Olwig
(University of Copenhagen)
Paper Short Abstract:
Employing cue-tips human substance is collected from dispersed "undocumented" refugee families to utilize DNA analysis to verify their entitlement to reunification. This paper examines how such tests are experienced and the opportunities and obstacles they present to refugees' family life.
Paper long abstract:
DNA-tests are performed today by doing mouth swabs with cue-tips made from a polyester material. Using this simple technological tool, human substance is collected to check, among other things, the existence of a biological relationship between parents and children. When such tests involve a refugee and children left behind, they are performed to determine whether the children are entitled to family reunification with the parent. This paper discusses how such DNA tests are experienced by the parties involved, and the varying opportunities and obstacles in relation to family reunification that they are seen to pose. On the basis of ethnographic research with immigration officials, legal aid services and refugees in Denmark as well as NGOs and refugees' family members abroad, it is shown that the bio-genetic verification of kinship, which narrows the field of accepted family relations to the nuclear family unit, is in sharp contrast to the broad notions and practices of family and kinship that prevail among many refugees and their relatives. This difference reflects partly disparate perceptions of family and kinship as, respectively, biologically fixed and socially practiced, partly the divergent interests of, on the one hand, a North European country intent on limiting the inflow of refugees as much as possible and, on the other hand, refugees eager to resettle with relatives in another country.
Artefacts of mobility and immobility in the border world