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Taking the ‘Just’ decision: Caseworkers and their communities of interpretation in the Swiss asylum office


Affolter, Laura; Miaz, Jonathan; Poertner, Ephraim (2019). Taking the ‘Just’ decision: Caseworkers and their communities of interpretation in the Swiss asylum office. In: Gill, Nick; Good, Anthony. Asylum determination in Europe. Ethnographic perspectives. Cham: Springer, 263-284.

Abstract

Decision-making in street-level bureaucracies has often been portrayed as being riddled with a practical dilemma: that of having to juggle between compassion and rigid rule-following. However, drawing on three ethnographic studies of Swiss asylum administration, we argue that often what are from the ‘outside’ perceived as conflicting rationales of decision-making, are not experienced as such by the caseworkers themselves. Rather these different rationales are made to fit. We argue that decision-makers’ ‘volitional allegiance’ with the office plays a crucial role thereby. For the caseworkers we encountered, decision-making is about taking ‘just decisions’, i.e. decisions that they consider ‘correct’ and ‘fair’. We suggest that these notions of correctness and fairness are crucially influenced by their affiliations and allegiances with different ‘communities of interpretation’ within the office.

Abstract

Decision-making in street-level bureaucracies has often been portrayed as being riddled with a practical dilemma: that of having to juggle between compassion and rigid rule-following. However, drawing on three ethnographic studies of Swiss asylum administration, we argue that often what are from the ‘outside’ perceived as conflicting rationales of decision-making, are not experienced as such by the caseworkers themselves. Rather these different rationales are made to fit. We argue that decision-makers’ ‘volitional allegiance’ with the office plays a crucial role thereby. For the caseworkers we encountered, decision-making is about taking ‘just decisions’, i.e. decisions that they consider ‘correct’ and ‘fair’. We suggest that these notions of correctness and fairness are crucially influenced by their affiliations and allegiances with different ‘communities of interpretation’ within the office.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Book Section, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
Dewey Decimal Classification:910 Geography & travel
Language:English
Date:1 January 2019
Deposited On:14 Dec 2018 13:15
Last Modified:14 Dec 2018 13:18
Publisher:Springer
ISBN:9783319947488
OA Status:Green
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-94749-5_13

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