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"Hela världen på vår tröskel": lokala reaktioner på en utlokaliserad flyktingförläggning
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Social Work.
2008 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This thesis describes, conceptualizes and analyzes local reactions to the establishment of a refugee center in a small, remote mining community in Malmliden, rural Sweden, in the early 1990s. The purpose of the study was to explore and describe the local and wider contexts in which the reactions took place and to understand reactions in relation to these contexts. The study combined qualitative interviews, participant observation and the analysis of texts from different sources: daily press, historical and policy documents. Twenty-seven persons were included in the interview study (nineteen respondents and eight key infor-mants). Interviews with the nineteen respondents (nine men and ten women) were based on a semi-structured interview manual and were carried out during the winter of 1993 and the spring of 1994. Theo-retical frames and concepts were chosen in an elaborative way that was suitable for the empirical findings that gradually developed. In short, theoretical considerations that focus on social and political processes of inclusion and exclusion, ethnic relations and categorizations and the interplay between the social and the individual frame the analysis. The analysis is more closely informed by perspectives on how the atti-tudes toward the asylum seeker (as an immigrant but also as a welfare-state client), as a representation of “the other”, are socially produced.

This study revealed that the inhabitants had dual reactions to the localized refugee center in Malm-liden. The reactions could neither be characterised as positive nor negative. They were summarized as ambivalent and were expressed spatially and socially. The spatial aspects include a number of inhabitants’ positive experiences of the refugee center as something that brought vitality to the slumbering neighbor-hood, while others thought of the refugee center as something disturbing and displaced. The social aspects involved a number of inhabitant’s embrace of the refugee center and the asylum seekers, whereas others distance themselves from the center and the refugees. While some inhabitants were enriched by the con-tact with asylum seekers, others dissociated themselves from the refugees and other inhabitants who were involved with the refugee centre. Some of the reactions were expressed as resistance. These reactions were mostly expressed latently, toward the authorities or local Policy makers and not directly toward the refugees or the refugee center The inhabitants blamed the establishment of the refugee center and those employed there for the poor state of things because they represented symbols of change and uncertainty. Therefore, initially the resistance could not be understood as rooted in emotional antipathy toward refu-gees as a (ethnic) group or as individuals, but rather as resistance against a perceived intrusion into the neighborhood autonomy. However, the strategies of the inhabitants were avoidance of contact with the refugee center and the stigmatization of the refugees. Therefore, the actions of resistance resulted in a racialization of place and ethnic segregation. The dual reactions of the inhabitants were contextual, and in which local as well as national circumstances played a considerable role in shaping the inhabitants’ experiences. At both national and local levels, the attitudes and practices directed toward asylum seekers and refugees were ambivalent. The reasons for the local acceptance of asylum seekers were ambivalent, and in which both actions of solidarity and economic considerations came into play. An external circum-stance influenced expectations and reactions to the refugee center was an ambivalent refugee policy which aimed to integrate the asylum seeker with a normalized habitat but with an institutional framing, which clearly made the asylum seeker into a client. Another external factor was the welfare state position of the asylum seeker, as he or she was positioned in an ambivalent juridical, social and political position. The overall conclusion is that the positions of the asylum seekers in the neighborhood of Malmliden were further stressed as welfare state clients and not as ordinary neighbors. A concluding image is that the contextual ambivalent positioning of the asylum seekers was reflected in the way the inhabitants regarded the asylum seekers as others in the neighborhood community.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Socialt arbete , 2008. , 325 p.
Studier i socialt arbete vid Umeå universitet : avhandlings- och skriftserie, ISSN 0283-300X ; 58
Keyword [sv]
refugee center asylum seekers, Swedish refugee policy, immigration policy, integration, reactions, localization, ambivalence, stigmatization, racialization, NIMBY
National Category
Social Work
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-1621ISBN: 978-91-7264-559-2OAI: diva2:141581
Institutionen för socialt arbete, 90187, Umeå
Public defence
2008-05-16, Hörsal C, Samhällsvetarhuset, Umeå universitet, Umeå, 10:00 (English)
Available from: 2008-04-25 Created: 2008-04-25 Last updated: 2016-06-14Bibliographically approved

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