This new RSC Working Paper by Julia Muller (MSc 2017-2018) looks at refugee integration in the Netherlands through the example of De Voorkamer, a grassroots initiative located in Lombok, one of the most ethnically diverse neighbourhoods in the city of Utrecht. The initiative aims to enhance the integration of refugees and asylum seekers in ways that counter ‘bureaucratic processes of integration’. In light of growing Islamophobia, the rise of right-wing populism and increasingly restrictive immigration politics across Europe, stories of inclusion, integration and belonging in cultural diversity are needed to a growing extent. An intercultural narrative may present new perspectives, filling a gap in both theories and practices of refugee integration. The paper discusses how De Voorkamer has become ‘a special kind of place’, examining particular notions of belonging, considering practices of home-making and intercultural co-creation. Guided by De Voorkamer’s practices and self-identifications, the paper further explores discourses of multiculturalism and interculturalism, analysing the binary of ‘local’ and ‘newcomer’ through terminologies of sameness and difference. Finally, it looks at different levels of engagement among locals and newcomers, investigating to what extent instances of inclusion and exclusion inform feelings of belonging. Ultimately, this research aims to demonstrate whether and how De Voorkamer fosters integration, combats stereotypes and encourages exchange, and thereby offers insights into what successful refugee integration, in the Netherlands and beyond, might entail.
Read the working paper here