Volunteers and refugee identity. By S. CHTOURIS & A. ZISSI


Volunteers and refugee identity. By S. CHTOURIS & A. ZISSI


Cite as: Chtouris S. & A. Zissi, 2018, "Volunteers and refugee identity", in A. Hamburger, C. Hancheva, S.Özcürümez, C. Scher, C. B. Stankovic & S. Tutnjevic (edts), Forced Migration and Social Trauma. London: Routledge, https://doi.org/10.4324/9780429432415


The theory of the refugee label places particular importance on the constitutional practice of bureaucracy and NGOs, and does not allow for the opportunity to turn towards the dialectic dynamics between the person who ‘seeks’ help and the one who ‘offers’ it. This dipole is understood to a large extent only through the interpretation of practice and the feeling of “pity” (Nussbaum, 2008) or through the individual rational choices that serve, at the same time, as supporter and volunteer life strategies. This way, the ‘live life’ relationship that the supporters and volunteers seek and that the refugees and immigrants often accept is suppressed or ignored. This relationship happens, in particular, in frameworks with a low degree of institutional presence and a high degree of self-organisation and cooperation in their daily operation (Chtouris & Rentari, 2016). The image of official (for example: Diavata, Kara Tepe) and unofficial (for example: Idomeni, Calais) settlements conveyed by the media is usually particularly negative in terms of how safety and hygiene issues are depicted, largely effected by discontinuous and selective observations made by media reporters and TV crews. This picture is made even more dramatic by the constant presentation of the conflicts arising mostly between younger refugees, which are not uncommon, however, in big city quarters. The focal point of this research was directed towards recognising the volunteers’ attitudes towards the refugees’ needs, and the latter’s presence not only as recipients of help, but also as independent people with the ability to make decisions, have desires and life strategies for their future and that of their families.

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