Cite as: Cabot, H. (2013), "The social aesthetics of eligibility: NGO aid and indeterminacy in the Greek asylum process". American Ethnologist, 40: 452–466.
On the porous EU border of Greece, where both fiscal and migration management are said to be in a state of crisis, NGOs figure crucially in the provision of legal and social aid to asylum applicants. I explore the dialogical engagements underpinning the determination of client eligibility at one such NGO in Athens. As workers and aid candidates coproduce “pictures” of lives eligible for protection, profound uncertainties and indeterminacies emerge. I argue that this indeterminacy gives testament to an often overlooked form of agency: how aid candidates and service providers alike reshape and even refuse dominant images of deservingness, victimhood, and vulnerability from within systems of aid distribution.