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Conference paper

A House is not a Home – Media representations of asylum shelters in Norway.

The 18th Nordic Migration Conference, Oslo
August 11-12 2016
The University of Oslo

What kind of accommodation is offered as shelter to the increasing number of refugees in Norway? How are these shelters communicated, directly and indirectly in Norwegian media? What can the mediation of physical shelters tell us about the way refugees’ security, rights, and living conditions are negotiated within the Norwegian public sphere?

This paper addresses the mediation of the complex and entangled relations between refugees, their Norwegian host society and the lodgings they are presented as primary shelters. It is interesting, both symbolically and pragmatically, to look at what kind of minimum standards we, as a society, accept to offer people in crisis, and further how, and to what extent, the quality of the refugees’ living standards are communicated in the media to raise public awareness and debate. Most asylum shelters in Norway are built for other purposes, often located in the semi-periphery of local communities. As Støa et.al has noted, this does not facilitate the integration of the refugees.[1]

A building is not a home, and its location is not necessary a neighbourhood nor a community. To experience belonging and security, even if temporary, takes more than a physical structure (see e.g. Sieverts 2007, Nylander 2003). However, in the news media the social agency of buildings is seldom explicitly mentioned or discussed. One purpose of this study is thus to look at to what extent this contributes to the framing of asylum seekers as “others” (e.g. Eide and Simonsen, 2007, Figenschou and Thorbjørnsrud, 2015).

The study investigates how asylum shelters in Norway have been presented and represented in Norwegian legacy media in the period February 2015-February 2016. The media selected are both national and local media houses. The study is conducted as a triangulation of a basic quantitative content analysis, supplemented by in-depth multi modal qualitative analysis of selected news entries. The following research questions are raised: How many news articles/TV stories talk explicitly about asylum shelters? How are the buildings represented visually and verbally? How are the asylum seekers positioned in relation to their physical surroundings? What can this tell us about dominant discourses and stereotypes in relation to asylum seekers and their needs?

Eide, Elisabeth and Simonsen, Anne Hege (2007). Mistenkelige utlendinger. Høgskoleforlaget.
Figenschou, Tine Ustad and Thorbjørnsrud, Kjersti (2015). Faces of an Invisible Population in American Behavioral Scientist, 2015, Vol.59(7), pp.783-801
Nylander, Ola (2003). Arkitekturens inre HEMligheter. Svensk byggtjänst.
Sieverts, Thomas (2007)Section 1: Wasted and Reclaimed Landscapes – Metropolitan Landscapes: Attitudes, Research and Practice in Places, 19(1), 28.

[1] http://www.arkitektnytt.no/ntnu-vil-forske-pa-asylmottak,


Skjulhaug, M.Simonsen, A. 2016. 'A House is not a Home – Media representations of asylum shelters in Norway.'. 11.08.2016–12.08.2016.