Title: When does difference matter? Border-generating categories in the lives of foreign nationals in northern Portugal

Authors: Elizabeth Challinor

Addresses: Centre for Research in Anthropology (CRIA), University of Minho (UM), Braga, Portugal; Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities, Nova University of Lisbon, Lisbon, Portugal

Abstract: The production of border-generating categories in social and bureaucratic encounters in northern Portugal is examined in two sites: the organisation and implementation of training activities promoted within the ambit of a local integration plan and bureaucratic encounters with state officials. Examining how the significance of an individual's citizenship status changes according to context, the article addresses particular circumstances where migrants and refugees comply with or contest the imposition of border-generating categories. The analytical limitations of the concept of human agency for researching these processes are elucidated through an alternative focus on the exercise of human freedom. The case material illustrates how self-fashioning strategies, humour and strategic docility all constitute acts of freedom that may too easily pass unobserved when individual responses manifest compliance. These nuances are only accessible by engaging with people's moral subjectivities through participant observation, serving to highlight the importance of ethnography for border studies.

Keywords: border-generating categories; asylum-seekers; refugees; migrants; integration; agency; moral subjectivities; freedom; citizenship; bureaucracy; ethnography; participant observation; Portugal.

DOI: 10.1504/IJMBS.2019.105811

International Journal of Migration and Border Studies, 2019 Vol.5 No.4, pp.308 - 323

Received: 25 Sep 2018
Accepted: 25 Apr 2019

Published online: 03 Mar 2020 *

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