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Presenting the Absent: An Account of Undocumentedness in Sweden
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Social and Economic Geography.
2012 (English)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This thesis provides an ethnography and critical phenomenology of undocumentedness in the Swedish context. By attending to the forces and processes that circumscribe the life-worlds of undocumented persons, as well as the phenomenology and essential experiences of their condition, a complex and multi-layered illustration of what undocumentedness is and means is successively presented. Employing a dual conceptualization of the state, as a juridico-political construct as well as a practiced and embodied set of institutions, the undocumented position emerges as a legal category defined only through omission, produced and reproduced through administrative routine and practice. The health care sector provides empirical examples of state-undocumented interaction where the physical and corporeal presence of the officially absent becomes irrefutable. This research suggests that the Swedish welfare state – universalistic, comprehensive and with digitized administrative routines – becomes a particularly austere environment in which to be undocumented.

Drawing on interviews with regional and local health care administrators, NGO-clinics’ representatives and health professionals, as well as extensive participatory observation and interviews with undocumented persons, I argue that the undocumented condition is characterized by simultaneous absence and presence, and a correspondingly paradoxical spatiality. I suggest that the official absence and deportability of undocumented persons deprives them of the capacity to define space and, in an Arendtian sense, appear as themselves to others. There are, however, some opportunities for embodied political protest and dissensus. The paradoxical qualities of the absent-present condition manipulate the undocumented mode of being-in-the-world and I argue that alienation and disorientation are essential experiences of the undocumented situation.  

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Department of Social and Economic Geography, Uppsala University , 2012. , 190 p.
Keyword [en]
Undocumented migration, undocumented persons, feminist methodology, irregular migrants, existential geography, paradoxical space, Hannah Arendt, critical phenomenology, Sweden, political geography, papperslösa, absence and presence, embodied action, public space, alienation, disorientation, digital welfare state, health care, bio-politics, institutional border, embodiment
Keyword [sv]
Sverige, vård för papperslösa, hälso- och sjukvård, migranter, papperslösa, fenomenologi, det offentliga rummet, Hannah Arendt, feministisk metodologi, den digitala välfärdsstaten
National Category
Social and Economic Geography
Research subject
Social and Economic Geography
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-173196ISBN: 978-91-506-2288-1OAI: diva2:516978
Public defence
2012-06-08, Sal IV, Universitetshuset, Biskopsgatan 3, Uppsala, 10:15 (English)
Available from: 2012-05-16 Created: 2012-04-20 Last updated: 2012-07-17Bibliographically approved

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Sigvardsdotter, Erika
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