Existential Displacement: Health Care and Embodied Un/Belonging of Irregular Migrants in Norway
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionCulture, Medicine and Psychiatry. 2020, 44, 479–500. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11013-020-09677-3
Drawing on fieldwork and interviews in Oslo and Bergen, Norway, this article discusses irregular migrants’ experiences of existential displacement and the tactics they use to try to re-establish a sense of emplacement and belonging. More specifically, it argues that irregular migrants’ experiences of embodied unbelonging are a consequence of a violent form of governmentality that includes specific laws, healthcare structures, and migration management rationalities. The article makes this argument by tracing how these experiences translate into embodied effects that feature prominently in migrants’ narratives of suffering while living in a country that purports to provide welfare services to all. The narratives of their state of being-in-the-world are ways through which migrants both experience and express the violence and deprivation they face. I argue that these narratives are instances of structures of feeling (Williams 1973), which are shaped by modes of governmentality. The article shows that irregular migrants’ coping strategies centrally involve faith, religious communities and friends. Irregular migrants draw on these relationships to get by, access healthcare, and to resist the (health) effects of social deprivation and political violence. These relationships allow irregular migrants to find meaningful ways of being-in-the-world and rebuilding, to some extent, a sense of entitlement and belonging.