Accepted Paper:

The asylum centre as "just another local institution": the everyday practice of neighbourliness among asylum seekers and locals in the Danish town of Jelling  


Birgitte Romme Larsen (University of Copenhagen)

Paper short abstract:

Based on the everyday practice of 'institutional neighbourliness' amongst asylum seekers and local residents in a small Danish town, the paper discusses how this situated migratory encounter ties in with local modes of pragmatism, outside of dominant discourses such as humanitarianism/xenophobia.

Paper long abstract:

This paper investigates everyday practices of co-residency and 'institutional neighbourliness' amongst asylum seekers and local inhabitants in the small Danish town of Jelling. Where asylum centres in Denmark are sometimes faced with local opposition and are often isolated from nearby settlements, the centre in Jelling provides a different local migratory scenario. Being Denmark's oldest asylum centre, it has for 25 years been located in the centre of town, where asylum seekers and local inhabitants share residential and institutional public space. This unique local circumstance invites an ethnographic exploration of how over time and outside of an urban, cosmopolitan setting processes of multiethnic co-residency are shaped, interacted, and narrated, through everyday physical meetings in public space. The paper shows how local cultural history proves paramount for understanding the present-day migratory encounter and outcome in Jelling in its complexity, including the mundane neighbourly routines and pragmatic workings through which the institutions of 'the local community' and 'the asylum centre' have spatially and socially merged. Today the asylum centre has become "just another local institution". The paper thus argues that it is necessary to understand the ways in which situated migratory encounters tie in with pre-existing local self-understandings and modes of pragmatism, outside of dominant national discursive positions such as humanitarianism or xenophobia.

Panel P156
Encountering refugees beyond urban Europe: everyday interactions, pragmatics and outcomes