University of Oulu

Petäjäniemi, M., Lanas, M. and Kaukko, M., 2021. How to be a ‘Good Asylum Seeker’? The Subjectification of Young Men Seeking Asylum. Nordic Journal of Migration Research, 11(3), pp.284–300. DOI:

How to be a ‘good asylum seeker’? : the subjectification of young men seeking asylum

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Author: Petäjäniemi, Maria1; Lanas, Maija1; Kaukko, Mervi2
Organizations: 1Faculty of Education, University of Oulu, Oulu, FI
2Faculty of Education and Culture, University of Tampere, Tampere, FI
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 1 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Helsinki University Press, 2021
Publish Date: 2021-11-18


This research focuses on the subjectification of young asylum-seeking men. By subjectification, we mean the effort an individual invests in detecting, negotiating, meeting and contesting the surrounding discursive expectations. The underlying question is: if someone wants to fulfil the position ascribed to them, that is be a ‘good asylum seeker’ and respond to the surrounding demands as much as possible, what would then, in fact, be a ‘good asylum seeker’? The data consists of interviews and ethnographic hanging out with nine young asylum-seeking men throughout their asylum process. Based on their reflections on the discourses of the surrounding society, a ‘good asylum seeker’ is patient, active, positive and grateful; he normalises racism he faces and accepts prejudice towards himself. A ‘good asylum seeker’ also accepts the position of a less worthy human being, acknowledging that in an ideal situation he would be entirely away, out of sight or in another subject position. Our findings showcase the sheer impossibility of successfully filling the asylum seeker subject position, as the requirements are contradictory and unrealistic. Paradoxically, it could be said that a ‘good asylum seeker’ is no longer an asylum seeker.

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Series: Nordic journal of migration research
ISSN: 1799-649X
ISSN-E: 1799-649X
ISSN-L: 1799-649X
Volume: 11
Issue: 3
Pages: 284 - 300
DOI: 10.33134/njmr.389
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 516 Educational sciences
520 Other social sciences
519 Social and economic geography
Funding: The first author received financial support for the research from Niilo Helander’s foundation. Other authors have no competing interests to declare.
Copyright information: © 2021 The Author(s). This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC-BY 4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. See