The Asylum Center as “Just Another Local Institution”: Co-residency and the Everyday Practice of Neighborliness Among Asylum Seekers and Locals in the Danish Town of Jelling

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This article investigates everyday practices of co-residency and ‘institutional neighborliness’ amongst asylum seekers and local inhabitants in the small Danish town of Jelling. Where asylum centers in Denmark are sometimes faced with local opposition and are often isolated from nearby settlements, the center in Jelling provides a different local migratory scenario. Denmark’s oldest asylum center has been located for 25 years in the middle of town, where asylum seekers and local inhabitants share residential and institutional public space. This unique local circumstance invites an ethnographic exploration of how over time and outside of an urban, cosmopolitan setting processes of multiethnic co-residency are shaped, interacted and narrated through everyday physical meetings in public space. The article shows how local cultural history proves paramount for understanding the present-day migratory encounter and outcome in Jelling in its complexity, including the mundane neighborly routines and pragmatic workings through which the institutions of ‘the local community’ and ‘the asylum center’ have merged spatially and socially. Today, the asylum center has become “just another local institution.” The article, thus, argues that it is necessary to understand the ways in which situated migratory encounters tie in with pre-existing local self-understandings and modes of pragmatism, outside of dominant national discursive positions such as humanitarianism or xenophobia.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJEECA Journal for European Ethnology and Cultural Analysis
Pages (from-to)73-91
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes

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