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Title: Friends, corporate parents and pentecostal churches: Unaccompanied asylum seekers from the Democratic Republic of Congo in London
Authors: Wahlström, Åsa Maria Charlotte
Advisors: Niehaus, I
Keywords: Lone refugee children;Europe;Welfare states;Social services;United Kingdom
Issue Date: 2010
Publisher: School of Social Sciences Theses
Abstract: The thesis provides an ethnographic study of the experiences of lone asylum seekers who are provided local authority care in the London Borough of Hillingdon. The research builds on sixteen months’ ethnographic fieldwork between April 2006 and September 2007, examining how the young people adapted to their changing and adverse circumstances and how welfare institutions in the United Kingdom responded to their situations. The young refugees in this research created personal relations of patronage in bureaucratic organisations, quickly formed networks and obtained goods by non-formal routes. They created space for play and spiritual growth, and maintained a position of obliviousness towards much of the events and logistics involved in leaving the DRC and seeking asylum in Europe. It was through these activities that personal agency of the young people emerged. However, the young people were not occupying positions of power. Their ‘agency’ was restricted and confined within social and political structures imposed on them. I argue that the separation of welfare services to religious life was for research subjects an arbitrary distinction. They had come from a Christian fundamentalist (Pentecostal) interpretation of the world in Kinshasa. God and evil were seen as omnipresent and omnipotent, and a true Christian (mukristu ya solo, a Christian of the soul), must be vigilant and pray all the time to be at one with the divine power. The young Congolese viewed their lives within such a theological ‘model’ and fitted all other seemingly ‘competing’ discourses and practices within it. As the young people negotiated their new lives in a new country, they adopted their coping strategies in ways that helped them benefit from the English welfare system and the Pentecostal faith respectively.
Description: This thesis was submitted for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy and awarded by Brunel University.
Appears in Collections:Anthropology
Dept of Social Sciences Media and Communications Theses

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