Pedagogical Work with Asylum-Seeking and Refugee Children in Denmark - a Prism to the Study of Emotional Work in Education

Thursday, 19 July 2018
Distributed Paper
Bolette MOLDENHAWER, University of Copenhagen, Denmark
Interpersonal and emotional aspects of pedagogical work have during the last few decades been of great interest among educational researchers. This paper offers an analysis of social and moral dimensions of education by using professional interactions with asylum-seeking and refugee children as a privileged prism through which to study the relational and emotional aspects of pedagogical work. The paper argues that the link between education and emotion is well addressed by considering the positioning of asylum-seeking and refugee children as a particularly vulnerable group characterized by anxiety and insecurity (Vitus & Nielsen 2011).

Drawing on empirical material based on participatory observations and interviews with staff from the administration, asylum centre and schools in selected municipalities, the analytical attention is directed towards professional practices and ideas, norms and sentiments expressed within and between the institutional settings. The investigation is informed by a micro-sociological approach based on Erving Goffman's theory of the interaction order (1983) and Arlie Hochschild’s conceptualization of emotions and emotional work (1979). As such, strategic emotional work is informing the analysis of the how to maintain a professional distance to the pedagogical work without being to personal engaged in the asylum-seeking and refugee children's fate and destiny. By understanding emotional dynamics in this specific sociocultural and learning context, the paper opens up for a more general understanding of interpersonal and emotional aspects of education (Turner 2009).


Goffman, E. (1983) 'The Interaction Order', American Sociological Review, 48:1-17.

Hochschild, A.R. (1979) 'Emotion Work, Feeling Rules, and Social Structure', The American Journal of Sociology, 85(3):551-575.

Turner, J.H. (2009) 'The Sociology of Emotions: Basic Theoretical Arguments', Emotion Review, 1(4):340-354.

Vitus, K. & Nielsen, S. S. (red) (2011) Asylbørn i Danmark – En barndom i undtagelsestilstand [Asylum-seeking children in Denmark – a childhood in exceptional state], København: Hans Reitzels Forlag.