“The curse of the refugee”

Narratives of slow violence, marginalization and non-belonging in the Danish welfare state





refugee narratives, racialization, Nordic exceptionalism, necropolitics, slow violence


Drawing on narrative interviews with people who have recently or in the past fled to Denmark, this article examines experiences of being cast as refugees within the Danish asylum and integration bureaucracy. The analysis is situated within a social context formed simultaneously by Nordic exceptionalism and racial colour-blindness, and by increasing restrictions within Danish asylum and integration policy. Within this context, the article analyses narrative accounts of structural violence and racialization within three central sites of refugee management: namely the reception and asylum camps, encounters with municipal integration workers, and in contexts of schooling and employment. The analysis conveys intersubjective perspectives on how being labelled as a ‘refugee’ involves being racialized, managed and controlled and it argues that such forms of legally-sanctioned control measures can be understood as a slow violence that harms the lives of those seeking protection in Denmark. Finally, the article discusses how people labelled as ‘refugees’ respond to and oppose experiences of racism and control, and how such responses are often silenced in ways that further legitimize racism.


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Brøndum, T. (2023). “The curse of the refugee”: Narratives of slow violence, marginalization and non-belonging in the Danish welfare state. Kvinder, Køn & Forskning, 36(2), 96–112. https://doi.org/10.7146/kkf.v36i2.141131