Accepted paper:

The informal infrastructure of refugee reception: the intertwinement of care practices and anticipated repression


Lieke van der Veer (Radboud University)

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.

panel P026
The spectres, spectacle and speculation of infrastructure - tracing the moralities of movement along energy corridors.