Riding along in the Name of Equality: Everyday Demands on Refugee Children to Conform to Local Bodily Practices of Danish Egalitarianism

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapterResearchpeer-review

  • Birgitte Romme Larsen
In this book chapter I explore how, within an everyday Scandinavian context,
individuality is conceptualized, and how at the same time this conceptualization
is played out and reproduced collectively; and I explore the fundamental tension between equality and freedom that seems inherent to “egalitarian individualism”. In which ways, I ask, do these dynamics concretize and materialize in everyday interfacial encounters involving refugee children and their local Danish surroundings? The analysis shows how Danish norms tied to everyday bodily practices, techniques, and routines prove crucial to the refugee children’s local inclusion and acceptance. An example of this is how—to the surrounding local communities—the bodily technique of cycling simultaneously comes to represent: (1) an ideal of the refugee child’s individual autonomy; and (2) a marker of his/her belonging to “the Danish collective”. Thus, the analysis illuminates the ways in which macro-political, explicit expectations of refugees becoming attached to local 'Danish people' constantly—when seen at the everyday micro-level—come to intertwine with a range of much more unpredictable, implicit expectations of becoming attached to local 'Danish practices', in the form of tacit material and bodily routines. On this ground, two main arguments run through the chapter. First, it is shown how the refugee children’s mastering of locally taken-forgranted everyday practices and routines commonly proves to be the voucher for social inclusion and acceptance. This means, I would argue, that the local mechanisms of “integration” generally prove to be working the other way round than politically projected (that is, if refugees live among largely ethnic Danish co-residents, they will automatically be included, and then, eventually, pick up on central “Danish” ways of doing). Second, and following from this, it is shown how, paradoxically, refugee children and youths are expected to be “individualized” and made “autonomous” in exactly the same way as everyone else, which in daily life—I argue—turns the envisioned emancipation from discipline into an actual disciplining in emancipation.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEgalitarianism in Scandinavia : Historical and Contemporary Perspectives
EditorsSynnøve Bendixsen, Mary-Bente Bringslid, Halvard Vike
Number of pages20
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Publication date15 Sep 2017
ISBN (Print)978-3-319-59790-4
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-319-59791-1
Publication statusPublished - 15 Sep 2017
SeriesApproaches to Social Inequality and Difference

ID: 167916970