Relations of Care: Expectations and obligations in close relations among volunteers and refugees in Venligboerne

Activity: Talk or presentationLecture and oral contribution


When thousands of refugees came to Denmark in 2015 and during the following years, theywere often welcomed by local groups of Venligboerne (VB), a non-formalised, civic initiativeto receive refugees. The predominant “let’s just do it”-attitude of the Venligbo groups differedmarkedly from the formalised procedures in established voluntary organisations. This meansthat Venligbo volunteers were able to become personally engaged in the lives of refugees toan unusual extent, not only helping with practical matters and interactions with themunicipalities, but also becoming new families, extra parents and witnesses to life changingmoments such as wedding or childbirths. While such relations of care between locals andrefugees generated many positive effects, they also involved obligations and expectationswhich some were not always prepared to handle. Moreover, while care is generally perceivedas positive, it may also involve unequal relations of power and hierarchy. This paper explores the kinds of relations developing over time between VB volunteers andrefugees. Drawing on analytical perspectives of care and relatedness, it investigates whichexpectations and obligations that different relations involve, and how both volunteers andrefugees negotiate these. On a more general level, these questions highlight differentperspectives on intimacy vs. distance in the reception of refugees. While the paper focuses onrelations of care mainly from the perspective of the volunteers, it sheds light on an importantdimension of refugees’ everyday life in exile and their possibilities for establishing closerelations and senses of belonging to their new place of living
Period12 Dec 2023
Event titleFamilies in Flux : Intimate Relations, Love and Care in Refuge
Event typeSeminar
LocationAarhus, DenmarkShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational