‘Contact Zone’ Developers Facing Inhibitors. Volunteers’ Experiences of Refugee Movements and Racism in Finland

Friday, 20 July 2018: 17:40
Oral Presentation
Sofia LAINE, Finnish Youth Research Network, Finland
In this article, I analyze the experiences of 15 Finnish volunteers who have done volunteer work with refugees in Finland between the fall 2015 and spring 2017. When analyzing their experiences as actors in refugee movements, it was recognizable how in all three phases (arrival, waiting period and after decision) these volunteers had crucial roles in building, carrying and promoting ‘contact zones’. Mary Louise Pratt’s (1992) defines contact zones as ‘social spaces where disparate cultures meet, clash, and grapple with each other, often in highly asymmetrical relations of domination and subordination – like colonialism, slavery, or their aftermaths as they are lived out across the globe today’. In this paper I analyse what kind of transculturation takes place in these ‘contact zones’, and what kind of alliances are established inside these movements. What is more, I also analyse a case study of a specific movement that has been successful to influence policy decisions.

Second part of the paper explores the obstacles of volunteers’ actions, namely racism, negative public atmosphere and inhibiting politics and policy reforms. Through editorial work of a Youth Knowledge Book “Young Refugees and Youth Work” by the Youth Partnership between Council of Europe and European Commission, my paper also reflects the current situation on more general level across Europe. This way the paper reaches to understand, what is more country-specific and what is more common in current Europe.