• Katalin Biróne Nagy
4. term, Global Refugee Studies, Master (Master Programme)

When granted refugee status, the asylum seeker reenters an established social order, this time encountering a new language, a new culture, and, all of a sudden, is to live up to alien expectations difficult to conceptualize. The host community is also challenged by the newcomers, who enrich as well as disturb their social space. It is state responsibility to make the meeting of cultures as smooth as possible and to ensure a sound and well-functioning common social space for both parties. For that purpose has the Danish state developed a three-year Integration Program with strict rules as to what is expected of both the municipalities and the refugees in order to ensure smooth integration. Refugees are distributed among municipalities, which set up integration teams to coordinate the process.

The present thesis focuses on Odsherred Kommune’s, a smaller Danish municipality’s struggle with the three-year integration program. After having done fieldwork, conducted interviews and applied participant observation, conditions in the integration field appeared to be similar to colonial/post-colonial conditions. The label ‘colonial’ is not a moral judgment passed on the way Denmark handles refugees, the parallel drawn between integration and colonialism/post-colonialism is simply an attempt at understanding the present controversial state of affairs in early integration, as far as power relations, social and cultural dichotomies, communication and identity issues go, posing the question: What problems of early integration does a parallel drawn between refugee integration and colonialism/post-colonialism highlight and what relevance that resemblance has in the current integration process?

The thesis examines the actors and power relations in the field of exclusion, developed for non-citizen refugees and how hegemonic power is maintained by ruling texts, positionality, surveillance and punishment. It also investigates the effect of this social reality on the refugee. The refugee in the system becomes the victim of epistemic violence, a process of ‘othering’, mostly through identifying him/her a stranger and distancing him/her into non-citizen status, where the gaze of power identifies this difference in a collective identity, origin and historicity are removed from refugee subjectivity and the refugee is alienated from the ‘space of meaning-making’, being turned into ‘terra nulla’.
Coping in the three-year program requires special strategies of self-preservation for the subaltern refugee. These strategies have been identified as hybridizing the homogenized collective space, ‘othering’, mimicry and developing a hybrid ‘Third Space’ for dialogue and integration.

Key words: integration, colonialism/postcolonialism, power relations, epistemic violence, ‘othering’

Publication date31 May 2016
Number of pages61
ID: 234515456