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Tuesday 17 October 2023 10:54

«For just decisions we need you!»: Relational decision-making and the bureaucratie exclusion of «poor others»


Focusing on the intersections between bureaucracies of welfare and migration control, this article interrogates how decisions about the future stay of non-citizens receiving social assistance are made in a relational interplay of different offices and actors in Switzerland. We investigate how relational decision-making is fundamental in crafting legitimate decisions about the exclusion of “poor others.” Based on ethnographic fieldwork with diverse actors involved in migration control enforcement and welfare policy implementation, this article contributes to understanding how legal regulations turn into social reality. We show that a multitude of actors, including social services, inform and affect migration control-related decisions. This relationality co-produces the outcome and legitimacy of the final decision taken by the respective migration office. In turn, the actors’ fields of action, values, and procedures are themselves affected by this relational involvement. The relational character of decision-making therefore involves an expansion of migration control into other bureaucratic and social fields that co-construct legitimate decisions concerning the deportation of “poor others” and create the illusion of a “coherent state,” invisibilizing structural inequalities.

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Achermann Christin, Lisa Marie Borrelli and Luca Pfirter.2023.“ “For just decisions we need you ! ” : Relational decision-making and the bureaucratie exclusion of “poor others”.” PoLAR : Political and Legal Anthropology Review : 1–14.

Haute Ecole et Ecole Supérieure de Travail Social (HESTS)

Marion Repetti
Responsable de l'institut Travail social, Marion Repetti