Questioning care: ambiguous relational ethics between a refugee child, her parents and the Danish welfare state

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Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork, in this article, I tell the story of a particular Syrian family and their encounter with a day-care institution in Denmark – and by extension with the Danish state. In doing so, I highlight how the initially legitimate worries and genuine care of the institution turned into a form of ‘coercive concern’ (Jaffe-Walter 2016) as the family failed to fully meet the
requirements of the Danish educational/ integration regime. I show the problematic transition that occurred in the approach to Aisha as the pedagogues moved from seeing her as a vulnerable refugee in need of care to seeing her as a ‘problem of integration’. Highlighting glimpses of alternative pedagogical
approaches, which were co-present though undermined, I argue for the value of relational care as entailing emphatic listening and presence (Noddings 2013). I thus point to the value of doubt and dialogue, rather than a stifled form of certainty through adhering to specific pedagogical mantras vis-à-vis integration policy.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Inclusive Education
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)196-209
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • children and youth
  • management, organizational development and innovation
  • education, professions and jobs

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