“The asylum center is just another local institution”: co-practices of neighborliness and homemaking in the everyday encounter between asylum seekers and local residents in rural Denmark
Birgitte Romme Larsen (University of Copenhagen)
Paper short abstract:
The paper investigates everyday practices of neighborly sociability and homemaking among asylum seekers and local inhabitants co-living in a rural Danish town, promoting an understanding of migratory issues of inclusion and belonging outside of an urban context, and attending to a local asylum scenario characterized by connectivity and collective efforts of feeling at home.
Paper long abstract:
The issue of co-living and ‘feeling at home together’ across ethnic and cultural backgrounds has been a core topic in migration studies. Nonetheless, the existing literature (e.g. on ‘social cohesion’, ‘multiculturalism’, ‘conviviality’) focuses almost entirely on metropolitan/cosmopolitan urban settings. Yet, the forced geographical dispersal of asylum seekers and refugees to remote areas has become the political norm within numerous European countries, while studies of interethnic co-residency within peripheral settings remain scarce. Against this background, the proposed paper examines everyday practices of neighborliness and homing among asylum seekers and local inhabitants sharing everyday public and institutional space within the small Danish town of Jelling, Southern-Jutland. With its village- sized population of 3,300, the continual number of 400 temporary asylum seekers is a considerable addition to the local, established population. Departing from this local encounter, the paper asks how, on a micro-sociological level, various perceptions of local belonging and “feeling at home in the world” are formed and enacted in daily life, across local time and space. Based on ethnographic fieldwork in Jelling, the paper investigates the everyday practice and social skill of “co-homing” within joint space, across ethnicity and socio-legal status, attending to an understanding of belonging and homeliness within a rural, multiethnic site, simultaneously analyzed from migrant and native perspectives. In addition, the paper attends to particular situations, where the primary objective is not necessarily that of migrants being ‘disconnected’ (lack of access to enter, or interact within, a given territory or community), which features prominently in work on global, postmodern migration schemes. What can we learn about social processes of inclusion/exclusion, belonging and homemaking from particular local migratory scenarios characterized by connectivity and interdependence?