This research project analyses new forms of neighbourhood solidarities in a  situation where the right to asylum is being questioned, while at the same time there are more and more people in the world in need of asylum.

With neighbourhood solidarities we refer to novel forms of political movements and local-level actions of support that have emerged around the questions of asylum. Neighbourhood solidarities brings together activists and asylum seekers, surpassing national borders. These civic mobilisations are creating alternative politics of citizenship and new practices of organising home and refuge.

  • In what ways is citizenship enacted and transformed through migrants’ political agency?
  • How does providing housing and helping the newly arrived, for example in navigating between administrative migrant categories and residence permits, transform citizenship?
  • What kinds of neighbourhood solidarities are emerging around the question of asylum and what meanings do these solidarity practices have for asylum seekers and migrants as well as for activists?
  • How do asylum seekers and migrants perceive home and belonging in Finland, in relation to their homeland, diaspora, and solidarity communities?

These are some of the questions that Neighbourhood Solidarities as a Response to the Asylum ‘Crisis’ research project, funded by Kone Foundation (2018–2021), will answer. The research project is situated in Sociology at the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Helsinki. The project is multidisciplinary combining sociological and anthropological perspectives with art.

The aims of the research project are:

  • Analysing the asylum seekers’ demonstrations against deportations and their struggles for their right to asylum (Lena Näre’s sub-project). This project examines the political demands of the Right to Live demonstration, as a means of making migrants’ struggles over citizenship and borders of residence more visible. The project analyses the political as well as the everyday meanings of the demonstration, which relate to everyday survival, protection and human rights. The demonstration and the social networks built around it are understood as one site of neighbourhood solidarity.
  • Examining boundary-crossing solidarities and hospitable encounters (Paula Merikoski’s sub-project). This project analyses hosting of asylum seekers in local people’s homes as an example of civil society’s solidarity and hospitality towards refugees. The research examines different dimension of the phenomenon, such as hospitality as a form of resistance to exclusionary migration policies, as well as the private home as a site of civic agency.
  • Analysing alternative routes for finding ‘refuge’ (Olivia Maury’s sub-project). This project examines the student visa as an alternative strategy for finding refuge and creating a safer life in Finnish society. The research analyses the growing heterogeneousness of the student-migrant group, in terms of class and ethnicity and their links to producing precarious labour force. The objective of the research is to examine in which ways the migrants’ movements challenge migrant categories and the global border system.
  • Examining the tensions between care and suspicion in encounters of unaccompanied minors (Anna-Maria Tapaninen’s sub-project). This project studies how childhood is defined in legislation and in administrative practices in the case of unaccompanied minors, and examines what forms of support these children receive in different networks. The objective of the research is to examine the tensions between care and suspicion, through an analysis of how ideas related to childhood, home and family are developed and reworked in practice.
  • Examining the attachment and belonging of minor refugees through construction of home (Elina Paju’s sub-project). The research studies the material and affective dimensions of the construction of home, and analyses how different relationships are materialised in the homes of minors. The research analyses how the minors’ own place is constructed through home, and how home making becomes possible for the minors themselves, i.e. in receptions centres offering family accommodation and families offering accommodation for minors.
  • Understanding the connections between diaspora and identity through art (Anna Knappe’s and Amir Jan’s art project). As a part of the Mohajers, camps and imaginary homes art project, Anna’s and Amir’s video installation Warland examines the concepts of home and homeland through the perspectives of young Afghans who have never been to Afghanistan. The installation is the third part of the video installation series initiated in 2015 that examines how words and language form the identities of the members of the Afghan diaspora and their personal experiences.