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Between Compassion and Privilege: Identity, Responsibility and Power Among Volunteers Engaged in Refugee Reception

Mårs, Daniel LU (2016) TKAM02 20161
Division of Ethnology
Abstract
Based on a research project on the refugee reception in Malmö, Sweden in the fall of 2015, this thesis explores how volunteers engaged in refugee related aid work acquire two conflicting identity positions. Through compassionate acts they orient between two poles: the refugees and the Swedish society. Analysis of interviews with volunteers engaged in the refugee reception, as well as observations and Internet ethnography, show that the volunteers self-identify as “citizens of the world” and the refugees’ fellow human beings. Through a theoretical framework of emotions, globalization, orientalism and queer phenomenology, the thesis investigates how the volunteer identity includes feelings of responsibility and guilt as well as a class... (More)
Based on a research project on the refugee reception in Malmö, Sweden in the fall of 2015, this thesis explores how volunteers engaged in refugee related aid work acquire two conflicting identity positions. Through compassionate acts they orient between two poles: the refugees and the Swedish society. Analysis of interviews with volunteers engaged in the refugee reception, as well as observations and Internet ethnography, show that the volunteers self-identify as “citizens of the world” and the refugees’ fellow human beings. Through a theoretical framework of emotions, globalization, orientalism and queer phenomenology, the thesis investigates how the volunteer identity includes feelings of responsibility and guilt as well as a class perspective where the volunteers distance themselves from what they consider a privileged non-volunteer community. Further, this identity is problematized by an exploration of the volunteers’ position as Swedish citizens and their own privileged everyday lives. The possibility of choosing not to volunteer gives the volunteers a powerful position where they are able to affect how and if the refugees are helped. The refugees are dependent on the volunteers’ aid work and described as being in a situation they cannot influence. Volunteers engaged in the refugee reception in Malmö can therefore be seen as “compassionate authorities”, and as an example of the unequal social relationship between sufferers and non-sufferers inherent in compassionate acts. As a concluding remark, suggestions are presented on how these findings are applicable and beneficial for the documentation of the refugee reception, as well as for increased privilege awareness among volunteers and an improved communication between volunteer organizations and their members. (Less)
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author
Mårs, Daniel LU
supervisor
organization
course
TKAM02 20161
year
type
H2 - Master's Degree (Two Years)
subject
keywords
responsibility, orientalism, globalization, identity, emotions, volunteers, refugee reception, power, privilege, class, MACA
language
English
id
8887216
date added to LUP
2016-09-15 11:26:56
date last changed
2016-09-15 11:26:56
@misc{8887216,
  abstract     = {Based on a research project on the refugee reception in Malmö, Sweden in the fall of 2015, this thesis explores how volunteers engaged in refugee related aid work acquire two conflicting identity positions. Through compassionate acts they orient between two poles: the refugees and the Swedish society. Analysis of interviews with volunteers engaged in the refugee reception, as well as observations and Internet ethnography, show that the volunteers self-identify as “citizens of the world” and the refugees’ fellow human beings. Through a theoretical framework of emotions, globalization, orientalism and queer phenomenology, the thesis investigates how the volunteer identity includes feelings of responsibility and guilt as well as a class perspective where the volunteers distance themselves from what they consider a privileged non-volunteer community. Further, this identity is problematized by an exploration of the volunteers’ position as Swedish citizens and their own privileged everyday lives. The possibility of choosing not to volunteer gives the volunteers a powerful position where they are able to affect how and if the refugees are helped. The refugees are dependent on the volunteers’ aid work and described as being in a situation they cannot influence. Volunteers engaged in the refugee reception in Malmö can therefore be seen as “compassionate authorities”, and as an example of the unequal social relationship between sufferers and non-sufferers inherent in compassionate acts. As a concluding remark, suggestions are presented on how these findings are applicable and beneficial for the documentation of the refugee reception, as well as for increased privilege awareness among volunteers and an improved communication between volunteer organizations and their members.},
  author       = {Mårs, Daniel},
  keyword      = {responsibility,orientalism,globalization,identity,emotions,volunteers,refugee reception,power,privilege,class,MACA},
  language     = {eng},
  note         = {Student Paper},
  title        = {Between Compassion and Privilege: Identity, Responsibility and Power Among Volunteers Engaged in Refugee Reception},
  year         = {2016},
}