Unpacking deservingness: An ethnographic study on the construction of deservingness through humanitarian and solidarity practices in Greece

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This thesis explores the notion of deservingness in the lives of people on the move. It captures how deservingness is constructed through humanitarian and solidarity practices in Greece in the years after 2016 when the EU-Turkey Agreement was signed. Drawing on the concepts of hotspot geopolitics, geosocial solidarity, legal precarity, humanitarianism, and solidarity in Greece, it unpacks the different understandings of deservingness on a theoretical level. This research is based on fieldwork and interviews conducted mainly in Athens, Greece, from May until August 2021. It provides insights regarding movers’ interaction with the Greek Asylum Services and the so-called “rescue branch” of the “migration industry”. Through that, it scrutinizes the culture of disbelief existing in the asylum procedure, the role of nationality and vulnerability in it, and how the image of the deserving migrant is constructed through humanitarian and solidarity practices. Furthermore, this research explores movers’ experiences concerning their deservingness in the Greek context. It examines their navigational tactics to illustrate how the semi-legality embedded in the Greek bureaucracy and sense of precarity make their navigation a “jackpot process”. This research approaches deservingness as a non-fixed notion that obtains diverse configurations based on the context. Normalizing performance-based deservingness confirms that movers are expected to adopt a set of attitudes to become deserving. That expectation implies the racialized lines attached to specific mobilities, which significantly restrict our understanding of being on the move.
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