Accepted Paper:

Friendly neighbours: Voluntary activities in the Danish province  

Author:

Marianne Holm Pedersen (Danish Folklore Archives at the Royal Danish Library)

Paper short abstract:

Based on an ongoing fieldwork, this paper explores how the grassroots initiative Venligboerne ("friendly neighbours") is practiced in different local settings in Denmark. It particularly focuses on how ideas about voluntariness and friendliness are negotiated in the local reception of refugees.

Paper long abstract:

In 2015, when Denmark received a large number of asylum-seekers, an initiative on spreading friendliness in a town in northern Jutland overnight became a nation-wide movement for the voluntary integration of refugees. Under the name Venligboerne ("friendly neighbours") more than 100 local facebook groups appeared, and activities such as cafes, language tutoring, donations, shared dinners and excursions took place all over the country. However, since Venligboerne is not an association, but a voluntary movement with no formal leadership, there exist varying and sometimes contradictory notions of what it means to be Venligbo and what friendliness involves. Often these understandings vary between urban and non-urban settings.

This paper uses the voluntary activities of Venligboerne as a lens on migration into non-urban settings. Based on participant observation and interviews with organizers it analyses the founding narratives of three non-urban Venligbo groups and examines how local networks and traditions of voluntariness come into play in a new context. Moreover, it explores how cultural perceptions of 'being friendly' are negotiated among volunteers, refugees and locals, and groups in different regions of Denmark.

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