Boundary work

‘Boundary Work’ - new interfaces between the state, civil society and refugees in a self-reliance and return context

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

The purpose of the project is to reduce the social vulnerability of refugees through increased knowledge and new opportunities for action in strengthened cooperation between refugees, civil society volunteers and welfare professionals in the municipal administration.

Through ethnographic fieldwork methods, the project team will investigate the new hyper-precarious everyday conditions for refugees in the (newer) regime of return policy and self-reliance in Denmark.

Hence, the project will 1) create new knowledge about changing interfaces between public authorities, civil society and refugees to be used to 2) develop rights-based interventions to improve refugee conditions and 3) create research-based social innovation in an interaction between research and practice development.

The project is initiated in a unique cooperation between Danish Red Cross, DRC Danish Refugee Council, and the Centre for Advanced Migration Studies (AMIS) at the University of Copenhagen.

The project draws on insights from Critical Border and Migration Studies, Anthropology of Humanitarianism and Welfare State Research, focusing on new relationships between state, civil society and citizens in an exploration of the boundary work done by refugees, volunteers and welfare professionals in the new self-reliance and return policy context. Through further development of insights from these fields, the project contributes new knowledge about challenges associated with temporariness and hyper-precarity in refugees' everyday lives, new forms of volunteerism in the light of trends in specialization and 'everyday humanitarism' as well as the implications of increased welfare pluralism for cross-sectoral cooperation.  

The project will strengthen the relevance of research to practice by anchoring new research-based initiatives in civil society and converting these initiatives into new knowledge within both NGO and welfare professions. The project includes refugees, volunteers and municipal caseworkers as target groups as well as dialogue partners. Through dialogue with the target groups, new, situated knowledge is developed that enables change: to enhance refugees' opportunities for action.



The project consists of three complementary subprojects which together meet the objectives and sub-objectives of the project:

Subproject 1: 'Collaborative ethnography' constitutes a fieldwork-based study of refugees' hyper-precarised living conditions in relation to the political production of ‘deportability’ as well as everyday humanitarianism with a focus on refugee-volunteer relations, understood as different forms of boundary work between state, municipality and civil society.

Subproject 2: 'Practice development through new initiatives' develops new, rights-based initiatives building on social innovation methods. In close cooperation with the local partners and in response to the project's practice questions, the initiatives are tested in three concrete volunteer groups under the auspices of the RK and DRC. The subproject's experience in developing initiatives results in a concrete product made for and with refugees in order to strengthen refugees' opportunities for action.

Subproject 3: 'Development of new practice-research cooperation' facilitates and reflects on the project's practice-research collaboration with the potential to develop new understandings and collaborative constellations between university, professional fields and practice.

For further enquiries, please contact PI Marie Sandberg,





Prof. Carl-Ulrik Schierup, Linköpings University, Sweeden

Prof. Antje Ellermann, UBC Centre for Migration Studies, University of British Columbia, Canada



Niels Svankjær Christiansen, Danish Red Cross

Nana Folke, Danish Red Cross

Jasper Voigt Møllebro, Danish Red Cross

Jacob Midtgaard, DRC Danish Refugee Council

Lise Hauge, DRC Danish Refugee Council

Sanne Kok, DRC Danish Refugee Council





Name Title Phone E-mail
Jørgensen, Rikke Pernille Egaa Postdoc   E-mail
Kohl, Katrine Syppli Postdoc +4535333828 E-mail
Sandberg, Marie Associate Professor - Promotion Programme +4551299017 E-mail
Shapiro, Ditte Krogh Postdoc   E-mail


The Velux FoundationsFunded by the Velux Foundations

Project period:
1 April 2021 - 31 March 2024

PI: Marie Sandberg