Professor Philip Lalander, new member of LNUC Concurrences

Philip Lalander, professor in social work, is now a member of LNUC Concurrences. He has been working at Linnaeus University, department of social work, since April this year and is involved in two ethnographic research projects in asylum contexts. One (with Torun Elsrud, LNUC, as project leader) deals with the social dimension of hope in the asylum process. This project includes interviews and observations with migrants regarding the asylum process, times of waiting and how they deal with everyday life in relation to hope and a possible future with less precariousness.

The other project focuses on young people who fled from Sweden since their asylum applications were rejected in Sweden due to increasingly restrictive Swedish migration policies. The project focuses on the participants’ choices, agency, and resources as they navigate in different new asylum contexts in European nations such as Italy, France and Portugal. Both projects are informed by an interest in individual agency in relation to structural constraints and power. As asylum seekers from the global south, they have arrived in Sweden and Europe at a time when racism, criminalisation, administrative violence and exclusion processes escalate in many neo-liberal states. Thus, resistance towards control, exploitation and exercise of power is in focus of both projects.

Both of these projects include interviews and conversations through social media which make it possible to maintain contacts despite travel restrictions. In addition, the two projects analyze the importance of actors from civil society who engage in solidaristic movements aiming to support and protect individuals living with high degrees of uncertainty during the asylum process.

Prior to these ongoing projects Lalander has studied how young people, categorized as “unaccompanied minors”, with a permanent residence permit in Sweden reflect on themselves and their opportunities for establishing themselves in the Swedish society. The project resulted in a number of scientific articles and a book with the title: Social work, young migrants and the act of listening: Becoming an unaccompanied child (2021, Routledge, with Marcus Herz as co-author). Among other themes the book discusses how the young people experience that they are seen or decoded by Swedish citizens and social service agents as strange migrants with a threatening religious and cultural background. In order to deal with this gaze of other people they sometimes feel they need to hide their origin in order to “pass” as ordinary young people. Another theme in the book is how the young people experienced being categorized as “unaccompanied”. They felt that this labelling, used by authorities and in public discourse, conserved their position as being migrants, as “outsiders”. It is of major importance for social workers to really find time for listening to the young people in order to make them feel more included and stimulated to talk about their complex journey through life. Complex narratives and sincere listening can make it possible to reach a deeper understanding between human beings.