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Accepted Paper:

Tempering welfare dismantlement: Fluidity and humanity in the French asylum system  
Tessa Bonduelle (University of Amsterdam)

Paper short abstract:

The French state insists that the asylum system must be "fluid" and humane. I explore how non-governmental "operators" negotiate human-centred social work alongside the fluid circulation of bodies. I argue that their negotiations are crucial in tempering the dismantlement of French welfare.

Paper long abstract:

As the French state outsources the social work of sheltering asylum seekers and resettling refugees to non-governmental "operators," it imposes "fluidity"—a particular kind of efficiency logic, aiming to ensure that bodies exit shelters and resettlement programs when rights to these services expire. Concurrent with this fluid fantasy, the French government asserts that "humanity" is a central principle of asylum.

Examining state documents (laws, financial reports, call-for-tenders, and implementation memos), I track how the fluid circulation of migratory flows is imagined as one efficient chain of operation, reminiscent of the Fordist assembly-line. In these documents, fluidity is the idealised answer to overstretched sheltering and support services. I show how the "fluid" circulation of bodies comes to be justified along "humane" grounds: the outflow of those having completed twelve-month resettlement programs or reached the end of their asylum procedure, makes space for others.

Yet non-governmental workers were sceptical of the "humanism" of this regime of fluidity. Constrained by state target indicators, rigid administrative categories, and delimited programming, non-governmental workers often questioned the meaning behind the "social work" they undertook. Though they were tasked with addressing asylum seekers' and refugees' legal, housing, health and income issues, rarely were workers able to ensure the personalised and sustainable solutions to precarity long promised by French welfare. I argue that in brokering limited solutions for select casefiles, and in performing human closeness on behalf of a state increasingly seen as a dehumanised machine, non-governmental workers tempered welfare dismantlement.

Panel P161
Circulation and governance: state instantiations, movement and connectivity [AnthroState Network]
  Session 1 Thursday 28 July, 2022, -