Troubled identites: Asylum seekers at the intersection of care and control
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Asylum seekers at the intersection of care and control

Over the past 30 years, the figure of the refugee has been joined and partly reshaped by a new figuring of troubled individuals emerging all over Europe: The asylum seekers. While there are significant commonalities among these figures across Europe, the position is always constructed and developed in specific local and national contexts. Individual asylum seekers in the Danish asylum system negotiate their identities within a field of action where different institutional actors attempt to investigate, control and care for them in various ways. State bureaucrats question and test asylum seekers in a system steeped in mistrust and uncertainty, recognizing some as refugees and producing others as illegals, failed asylum seekers or deportees. Humanitarian actors (and increasingly also local municipalities) house and care for them in a highly politicized environment, at once contesting and coopting state rationalities. And asylum seekers themselves create, negotiate and develop social identities which, though they must account for the sorts of bureaucratic identities they have been presented, are by no means fully defined by them.

The ways of being as an asylum seeker are always a matter of navigating and presenting oneself within this succession of meetings with government and centre authorities, other asylum seekers, and centre volunteers within the frameworks of the Danish society and asylum system. This workshop is looking for papers that address these complex issues of identity and identification from a variety of angles. Papers on related identities such as refugees within the integration program are also welcome.

Christina Neumayer: Fragmented Realities? The Construction of Radical Political Positions in Digitally Mediated Discourse

This workshop-paper examines how different radical political positions are represented in digitally mediated discourse. The results are based on three qualitative case studies about marches organized by Neo-Nazis in East Germany, accompanied by counter-protests of anti-fascist groups, NGOs and civil society mobilized to block the marches by acting in civil disobedience. In these events information and communication technologies played an important role for mobilization and coordination. Opposing radical political perspectives are directly confronted with each other and this confrontation is reproduced in digitally mediated discourse. To make the blockades successful needs a critical mass of people what requires mobilization throughout the political spectrum. Consequently, anti-fascist groups, NGOs, civil society, politicians and public institutions in a collaborative effort try to block the Neo-Nazi marches, which are protected by the police under the premise of freedom of expression. The aim of this study is to understand how the different political positions around these events are presented in fragmented online spaces but also overcome differences in a collaborative effort.

These expressions of political positions online are based on identity processes that include political and cultural values, and politics become an instrument for achieving concrete goals, but also an activity of expression of performance within the development of the self (Dahlgren 2009). These individual preferences do not erase the necessity of collective identity but as these events show different political positions are united in a common cause, i.e. to prevent the marches of the Neo-Nazis. This collective identification with democratic objectives and passion forms democratic pluralism in the political (Laclau & Mouffe 1985; Mouffe 2005). Resistance within this point of view is the option to employ techniques of disobedience to challenge subordination. The representation of contestation is discussed within the concept of counter public (Negt & Kluge 1972) and subactivism (Bakardjieva 2009). Thus, the publicity and visibility of these collective identity formation processes is used for mobilization and making action public but also as an expression of political identity online. Within this theoretical framework this workshop-paper concludes by mapping the different political positions articulated in digitally mediated discourse about the events, including their interrelationship and their interaction with the mass media.


Bakardjieva, M., 2009. Subactivism: Lifeworld and Politics in the Age of the Internet. The Information Society, 25(2), pp.91-104.

Dahlgren, P., 2009. Media and Political Engagement. Citizens, Communication and Democracy, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Laclau, E. & Mouffe, C., 1985. Hegemony and Socialist Strategy 2001st ed., London, New York: Verso.

Mouffe, C., 2005. On The Political, London, New York: Routledge.

Negt, O. & Kluge, A., 1972. Öffentlichkeit und Erfahrung. Zur Organisationsanalyse von bürgerlicher und proletarischer Öffentlichkeit, Frankfurt am Main.


Katrine Syppli Kohl, Ph.d.-student, Department of Sociology, University of Copenhagen.

Zachary Whyte, Post.doc. Department of Anthropology, University of Copenhagen.

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Revised 2012.01.14