States of Intimacy: Refugee Parents, Anxiety and the Spectral State in Denmark

Publikation: Bidrag til tidsskriftTidsskriftsartikelForskningpeer review


This article examines the ways in which parenting practices of refugee parents are the object of concern for the Danish welfare state. Emphasis is placed on how interventions of daycare institutions and other welfare professionals have been experienced by refugee families who live in a context of radical uncertainty since they hold temporary residence permits in Denmark. Based on ethnographic fieldwork and in-depth interviews with families spanning several years, I analyze the experiences of a number of refugee families from Syria and Iran. Drawing on what has been called “the spectral turn” or “hauntology” in anthropology, I argue that welfare state belonging causes ambiguity for families who appreciate protection and sometimes family-like care from state agents but also fear its repercussions. As a result, I argue that relationships between refugee parents and agents of the welfare state are characterized not only by “fear of proximity” but also by “intimate distance”, since refugee parents experience “the system” as being nowhere in particular but potentially everywhere.
Udgave nummer2
Sider (fra-til)1-11
Antal sider10
StatusUdgivet - jun. 2022


  • Børn og unge
  • Socialt arbejde og sociale forhold
  • Skoler, fag og institutioner


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