Research seminar with Saskia Bonjour

Wednesday 20 April 2022, 14:30 to 16:30

On April 20, Dr. Saskia Bonjour will join us to present her paper 'Families First? The Mobilization of Family Norms in Refugee Resettlement'. 

Natalie Welfens, co-author on the paper, will co-present the seminar.
Laura Westerveen will moderate the discussion.

Saskia Bonjour is associate professor in political science at the University of Amsterdam. Her research focuses on the politics of migration and citizenship in the Netherlands and in Europe. The role of family, gender, and sexuality norms in the construction of national, cultural and racial identities is central in her research. She has also published about party politics, the role of the judiciary in policymaking, and the impact of EU migration policies on domestic politics. Find publications and full contact information here.

Natalie Welfens is a postdoctoral researcher working on the ERC project Refugees are Migrants: Refugee Mobility, Recognition and Rights’ at the Centre for Fundamental Rights of the Hertie School of Governance. Drawing on feminist theory, Political Sociology and Critical Migration Studies, Natalie’s research focusses on questions around categorisation practices and resulting inequalities,inclusion and exclusion in refugee and migration policies.

This will be an hybrid event, so it will be possible to participate both in presence and online. Click here to register for the seminar.


European resettlement programs prioritize the admission of refugee families. While this is seen as the “natural” thing to do, we argue that the mobilization of family norms is crucially political: in everyday bordering practices, interpretations of family norms are decisive for who is admitted to Europe. We study the selection of Syrian refugees in Turkey for humanitarian admission to Germany, which involves national governments, UNHCR, and NGOs. Fusing practice-theoretical approaches to humanitarianism and mobility governance on the one hand, with gender and sexuality scholarship on nationalism, empire, and migration on the other, we show how family norms configure discretionary power in transnational migration governance. First, family norms shape how power is exercised over refugees in vulnerability and assimilability assessments. Vulnerability assessments hinge on whether a family counts as protective and supportive, or deficient and threatening. Assimilability assessments scrutinize whether refugees do family “right”: in a way that will not disturb resettlement countries’ national (gender) order. Second, the mobilization of family norms reflects power disparities between actors. International and non-governmental actors strive to recognize plural family forms, but are disciplined into applying resettlement states’ more constraining family norms, thereby participating in the (re)production of the borders and boundaries of Europe.

Here you can find the full paper.

Photo by Ahmed akacha from Pexels