A Mind of Winter: The Transformative Experience of Estrangement by a Stateless Kurd in Exile in Denmark

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Abstract

This article explores the transformative experience of estrangement by a Kurdish Iranian refugee named Hiwa in exile in Denmark. Through a person-centered approach, I focus on what was at stake for stateless people, such as Hiwa, at a time when right-wing populist asylum politics made achieving permanent citizenship an uphill battle and leaving Denmark impossible due to the Dublin Regulation. Drawing on psychoanalytic theories of “the multiple self,” I describe Hiwa's changing self-states as involving a triple reorientation in the form of an estranged relationship to his past, present, and envisioned future. I analyze this transformative experience as linked to an existential quest to find a space between the struggle for freedom and submission to a sense of powerlessness—experiences that sometimes elude conventional language. Finally, I suggest that reading poetry and writing about exile constituted a transitional experience enabling an inner world of emotions to be expressed. The article provides a window to the human consequences of the “Paradigm Shift” in Danish asylum politics, which entailed making all residence permits temporary—and more broadly to the growing problem of statelessness in Europe.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEthos
Volume49
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)348-367
Number of pages20
ISSN0091-2131
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Keywords

  • social work and social conditions

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