The Inherent Contradictions of the Case Worker and the Welcoming System for Asylum Seekers

By: Elena Giacomelli  

This research stems from an engaged, action-oriented ethnography of my experience as case worker with migrants and the inherent contractions of this new profession. The Italian welcoming system is like a mosaic, a “patch-work”, with knowledge from many disciplines. This fragmentation of realities of asylum seekers inside the system produces fragmented individuals. As underlined by Losi (2010) the consistency of services can favor the internal coherence of a person. Therefore, the inconsistency and fragmentation of services do not help the understanding of the complex hosting reality. The analysis adds a notion proposed by Whyte within his analysis of the Dutch asylum system. He described the system through the myopticon from Foucault’s panopticon. The myopticon is a form of power based on uncertainty. Inside this fragmented and uncertain system a new professional figure is developing “communities of practices”: case worker with migrants. During my field-work I observed how different actions, ideals and roles of case workers significantly influence and shape experiences and paths of asylum seekers, as case workers are often the lens migrants use in order to have a first understanding and orienting themselves into the new reality. Case workers can represent a bridge (or a wall) between migrants and hosting communities. The cruciality of this work for a positive adaptation and inclusion is still underestimated and unconsidered. The hypothesis is that the still fragile and blurred boundaries of this profession and the fragmented and uncertain system have an impact on personal identities and on relationships of case workers and migrants.

Identity and Belonging
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Elena Giacomelli

Phd student , Political and Social science , University of Bologna, Italy