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Seeking empowerment: asylum-seeking refugees from Afghanistan in Sweden
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Sociology.
2010 (English)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The purpose of this study is to contribute to the understanding of how asylum-seeking refugees manage their lives in the situation they are in, a situation in which they are dependent and have to wait for decisions on whether or not they will get to stay in the country in which they have made their application for asylum. 

The elaboration upon these questions and the purpose of the study is approached through a field study of asylum-seeking refugees from Afghanistan in Sweden. The thesis presents a background of international migration, refugee migration, refugee migration from Afghanistan and the reception of asylum seekers and refugees in the EU and Sweden, which tells us both that asylum seekers and refugees are not welcome in the countries of the ‘North’, where policies of containment and repatriation are the most common features of treating the refugee ‘problem’ and that the long period of waiting and uncertainty creates a situation of passivity and ill-health among the asylum seekers.

Employing grounded theory methodology in different forms based in data from fieldwork, including participant observations and informal conversations, the study applies a constructionist grounded theory approach in the analyses of the situation and the management thereof.

Steered by this constructionist grounded theory approach, strengthened by a situational analysis, the thesis presents a situational frame pointing to the situation for the asylum-seeking refugees as temporal and dependent on Swedish national discourse, racism and paternalism.

With this background and frame and generated by data from the field study, the thesis goes on to present the situation as disempowering. The disempowering processes are illustrated through looking at dependence and inhospitality, and are characterised by the asylum-seeking refugees’ oscillation between feelings of hope and despair.

It becomes, however, also evident that the asylum-seeking refugees take action and that they are supported by latent empowering processes. The actions taken are categorised as actions of empowering in opposition to the processes presented as disempowering. The actions of empowering are connected to keeping oneself occupied, searching for and maintaining social contacts and in the asylum-seeking refugees’ representations of themselves.

From the presentation of the situation as disempowering and the actions taken by the asylum-seeking refugees in response to this situation as actions of empowering, a process characterised as seeking empowerment is presented. In this process empowerment is discussed as the establishment of power to resist. During the discussion of the concept of seeking empowerment it is shown how the asylum-seeking refugees in this study, through their actions of empowering, try to resist the disempowering situation. By seeking to establish power to resist, they are seeking empowerment.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Department of Sociology, Umeå university , 2010. , 200 p.
Akademiska avhandlingar vid Sociologiska institutionen, Umeå universitet, ISSN 1104-2508 ; 64
Keyword [en]
asylum-seekers, refugees, refugee migration, empowerment, grounded theory, constructionist grounded theory, Afghanistan, Swedish asylum policy
National Category
Research subject
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-36405ISBN: 978-91-7459-074-6OAI: diva2:354168
Public defence
2010-10-22, Norra Beteendevetarhuset, Hörsal 1031, Umeå universitet, Umeå, 13:15 (Swedish)
Available from: 2010-10-01 Created: 2010-09-30 Last updated: 2011-09-06Bibliographically approved

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