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

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-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.
Original languageEnglish
Article number56
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2022


  • children and youth
  • Child, Preschool
  • social work and social conditions
  • early inervention
  • parenting
  • schools, courses and institutions
  • day-care


Dive into the research topics of 'States of Intimacy: Refugee Parents, Anxiety and the Spectral State in Denmark'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this