The informal infrastructure of refugee reception: the intertwinement of care practices and anticipated repression
Lieke van der Veer
Paper short abstract:
This contribution, empirically based on ethnographic fieldwork in Rotterdam, discusses how the informal infrastructure of refugee reception materializes in anticipation to repression. It examines how accepted refugees assemble possibilities that emerge at the intersection of moralities of 'active citizenship' and 'activist citizenship'.
Paper long abstract:
In the Netherlands from 2015 onwards, the spectacle of newcomers arriving to seek refuge was channelled by vast media attention and political debate. Residents increasingly responded to this greater visibility of newcomers. In the Dutch city of Rotterdam, grassroots initiatives and reception brokers multiplied, and are consolidated in an informal infrastructure of reception. Implicated in this infrastructure are initiatives that former refugees (prepare to) initiate themselves, with the aim of helping people with a refugee background to navigate. Against the background of repressive formal municipal policies towards refugees in Rotterdam, as well as a history of resident protests against the construction of a local reception centre, the informal reception infrastructure gains relative stability by shared imaginaries of solidarity that circulate among these grassroots initiatives and reception brokers. The informal reception infrastructure materializes in anticipation to expected repression by municipal actors and the possibility of resident protest - thus allowing for speculative imaginaries of repression to shape the infrastructure’s workings. In turn, accepted refugees, in negotiating a legitimate role in that city, travel through this infrastructure and assemble possibilities in order to become ‘unmoved’ by the reception infrastructure and - so the imaginary goes - ultimately ‘arrive’. Accepted refugees, as well those that seek to help them, draw upon moralities of 'active citizenship' - premised on the idea that good residents participate - as well as upon moralities of 'activist citizenship' - premised on the idea that good residents challenge the existing order - in order to position themselves.
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