Embodied Citizenship: Afghan Refugees’ Sense of Belonging and Finnish Integration Policy

Monday, 16 July 2018: 19:00
Oral Presentation
Johanna HIITOLA, University of Jyväskylä, Finland
This paper explores how resistance and belonging are embodied by Afghan refugees in Finland. To analyse refugees' sense of belonging and agency, this research utilizes citizenship studies’ notion of ‘enacting citizenship’. However, this study not only concentrates on the often-analysed political activism or agency of people who already hold a certain level of rights, such as legal residency. The scope of this study also analyses struggles over gaining residency or asylum. In fact, these struggles reveal more about the boundaries of citizenship than other research material would. The paper revitalises discussions on how neoliberal citizenship produces a ‘flow of categories’ of destitute people who are excluded or disqualified from citizenship. It draws from scholarship on social class and classifications, feminist theories on intersectionality, and citizenship studies. Multi-sited ethnography is used to examine these questions. There are several factors that affect possibilities for embodied citizenship. These involve both refugees’ and forced migrants’ social positions and life experiences before fleeing, and their experiences of travel and waiting for residence permits. A further factor is locality – that is, the community in the final place of residence, and especially the ways in which ‘integration work’ is arranged in that area. All of these positions and experiences are intersectionally inscribed into the body as gendered, racialised, classed, and aged, etc. However, official integration policy does not fully recognize the issues which are essential for migrants’ embodied citizenship. This paper suggests that the whole system of ‘integration’ is destined to fail if the mobile and vulnerable situations of people are overlooked.