Citizens of Nowhere in a Landscape of Boundaries: Displacement and Belonging among Young Refugees in Denmark.
The imaginary of globalization is obsessed with mobility and wandering and in the global space, people cross borders routinely. At the same time, the ones who are actually forced into transit by travelling outside law often ignite discomfort, if not despise, among the passport-approved ‘global’ citizens. Through ethnographic qualitative fieldwork among a group of young refugees in and around Copenhagen, I explore how displacement and belonging are reflected upon and expressed among these actors. As non-citizens and as youth, the refugees are confined to a doubled liminal zone which intrigues my study: If we build our knowledge and understanding of the world from our place in it, how is this experienced when one does not have a juridical right to belong to the place one inhabits, as in the case of the refugee? I guide my research focus on how these young refugees reflect upon and express a sense of belonging, while negotiating with the boundaries that confine their daily living in the Danish asylum system, through the concepts of belonging, displacement, boundaries and natio-normativity, a term I introduce to address how belonging is framed as a normative rationality in the modern nation-state bound to national territory and citizenship. My empirical findings show that activity, freedom as well as social and lingual connection with their Danish surroundings are central factors for my informants’ ability to belong to a place and ‘localize’ in Denmark. While belonging to their Danish setting is a repeated will and wish for my informants, their confinement within the asylum system as well as their continuous forced displacement around the country severely disrupts this process. Reflecting upon the refugee’s liminal position as a form of abnormality produced by the nation-state that defines us as citizens before human beings, I use the concept of natio-normativity to understand how refugees’ movement does not transcend borders, but rather is chained within them. Thereby, I take the case of young refugees in the natio-normative landscape of Denmark to argue how movement in a globalized era simultaneously enforces and challenges national boundaries.