Suburban Estrangement in the Finnish Welfare State - Migration and the Metastasis of the Imaginary Refugee
Ville Laakkonen (University of Tampere)
Paper short abstract:
This paper analyses how the everyday encounters of refugees, migrants, and minorities with Finnish policies and institutions in a working-class suburban context are, in response to the state driven myopia regarding the diversity of migratory pathways and histories, characterised by estrangement.
Paper long abstract:
By employing the concept of 'estrangement', this paper analyses the everyday encounters of migrants and ethnic minorities with a intensely state-driven regime of care in what is an archetypal European welfare state: Finland. Due to being historically outside the scope of the post-war labour migrations, or at the very least being very much the country of outbound migration until the 1980s, the hegemonic, state-sanctioned, Finnish narrative of migration has been that of asylum-seeking. This narrative has engendered bureaucratic imaginaries, processes, and policies which, by default, treat the vast majority of arrivals from outside the European Union as traumatised, poor, suspicious, and passive. For many residents of non-majority origin, descent, or identification ̶ refugees, migrants, ethnic or linguistic minorities, and labourers ̶ this means that the internal diversity of what the Finnish policies and institutions seek to manage is never fully acknowledged. There is a tension between not only 'thin' and 'thick' notions of social incorporation, but also between the practiced terminological division of 'incorporation' and 'integration', captured in Finnish by the term kotoutuminen, derived from the word koti, 'home'. Based on participatory observation in Varissuo, a diverse working-class suburb in Turku, Finland, this paper argues that among its residents, the relationship to social incorporation, and Finnish legal and political institutions is characterised by estrangement. Estrangement differs from alienation as an active practice of not engaging with the institutions in the expected terms and as an critique to the bureaucratic metastasis of a refugee camp imaginary into everyday urban life.
Uncertain solidarities: migration, social incorporation, and European welfare states