Refugee Tales

Narrating Paradox Affects: Unaccompanied Minor Asylum-Seekers in Austria




unaccompanied minors, Austria, narrative, affect


Asylum-seeking unaccompanied children and youngsters are situated at the crossroads between exclusionary and repressive asylum policies, on the one hand, and relatively inclusive and caring child welfare policies, on the other. This is the ‘asylum-child welfare paradox’ (Dursun and Sauer 2021). In this article, we explore the role of affect, feelings, and emotions in how unaccompanied minors respond to and process but also co-construct and resist this structural paradox through their ‘affective narratives’ (Bargetz and Eggers 2022). Based on qualitative interviews conducted with (former) unaccompanied minors in Austria in 2015, we observe that minors mobilize a set of feelings of fear, disappointment, frustration, and uncertainty due to experiences of rejection or loss of control; but unaccompanied minors also express feelings of confidence, joy, hope, and solidarity vis-à-vis their new environment and their future. Furthermore, the highly affective issues of belonging and non-belonging to their host country, of proximity and distance to other human beings hold an important place in their narratives as well as the ordering of time. We conclude that, rather than merely reacting to paradoxes that structure their social positions, minors actively shape such paradoxes and render them tangible and workable by means of narrating contradictory feelings and emotions and by mobilizing affectivity.

Author Biographies

Ayşe Dursun, University of Vienna

Ayşe Dursun works as a postdoctoral research assistant at the Department of Political Science, University of Vienna, and is part of the research team Gender, Affect, Politics, State (GAPS) at the same Department. Her current research focuses on gender and politics, intersectionality, gender equality policies, social reproduction and care, social and women’s movements, and migration.

Birgit Sauer, University of Vienna

Birgit Sauer is emerita professor of Political Science at the Department of Political Science at the University of Vienna. Her research includes migration and gender, authoritarian right-wing populism and gender. Recent publications include: Dursun, Ayşe, Stella Wolter, Mira Liepold, Dovaine Buschmann, and Birgit Sauer, ‘Contested integration: hegemony projects in the field of education in Austria’, in: Critical Policy Studies (2022).





Refugee Tales