Vernacular Humanitarianism in the Land of Associations: Negotiating Voluntary Organisation, Municipal Influence and the Reception of Refugees among Venligboerne in Denmark

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During the so-called refugee crisis in 2015, movements to welcome refugees became widespread in Northern Europe. While numerous studies have documented the activities and motivations of these civic initiatives, few have investigated what became of them once the immediate situation was over. Based on fieldwork conducted between 2017 and 2020, this article explores the process of institutionalisation within Venligboerne (Friendly Neighbours) in Denmark. It focuses on debates about organisation and the challenges of maintaining a non-formalised structure in a society strongly marked by associational culture and close ties between the state and civil society. While responding to a transnational movement of people, Venligboerne represents a form of vernacular humanitarianism that is also deeply shaped by the social-cultural context in which it takes place. An ethnographic approach situating refugee relief initiatives within the local context is able to shed light on their political dimensions and potential for social change beyond the refugee context.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEthnos. Journal of Anthropology
Number of pages20
Publication statusPublished - 2023

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