Promising victimhood: contrasting deservingness rationales in refugee governance

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from: 11:00
to: 12:00

Join our seminar that will explore the notion of ‘promising victimhood’ as a fruitful concept to capture the contrasting demands refugees face.

In today’s migration and refugee governance, refugees are increasingly required to demonstrate both vulnerability and assimilability to be considered deserving of protection and territorial access. This seminar explores the notion of ‘promising victimhood’ (Chauvin & Garcés-Mascareñas. 2018) as a fruitful concept to capture the contrasting demands refugees face: policies and practices that require refugees to demonstrate that they are currently vulnerable and at risk, yet willing and able to ‘overcome’ their vulnerability to become law-abiding, self-sufficient and culturally malleable members of their host societies in the future.

Taking the example of selection practices in refugee resettlement to Europe, the presenter shows how ‘promising victimhood’ is characterised by tensions between vulnerability and three dimensions of assimilability: (1) security, (2) economic performance, and (3) cultural ‘fit’.

The seminar highlights how social markers of inter alia nationhood/race/religion, gender, sexuality and age shape assessments of both vulnerability and assimilability and thereby, which groups get to be seen as more deserving of access than others. By further developing promising victimhood as a concept, the presenter advances a more comprehensive understanding of deservingness and of the complex – gendered, racialised and age-differentiated – boundaries of inclusion and exclusion refugees face in today’s protection regime.

Speaker: Natalie Welfens (Hertie School).

Chair: Federica Infantino.