PhD Project Åsmund Aamaas

Resilienz: Asylum Seekers in Salzburg: Constraints, Opportunities and the Role of Resilience

The PhD project focuses upon the resilience of asylum seekers in Austria. The context in which the asylum seekers find themselves can cause a number of difficulties. Even though the constraints can be hard to handle, also opportunities are found in the host society. This research focuses upon resilience qualities and processes at individual and collective levels among refugees and asylum seekers. The situation of asylum seekers and refugees today is set in a historical perspective, mirroring a renewed interest of the interface between social anthropology and history.

Achmadi is an Afghani asylum seeker in his late twenties. About two thirds of the asylum seekers entering Austria the first eight months of 2009 were men. More than one tenth came from Afghanistan.1 Like Achmadi, many of the Afghan asylum seekers are single. After the Austrian authorities accepted Achmadi’s right to apply for asylum, he went to a reception centre in rural Salzburg. Bundesasylamt is currently probing whether he is a refugee according to the Austrian asylum laws or not. The waiting is difficult.

Why does Achamdi manage this difficult situation? Why do some individuals, groups, systems and organisations that experience real hardship gain strength rather than falter, whereas others, who experience severe difficulties, even perish? This has been and still is a prominent question across different academic disciplines. Historically, studies of these questions have often been problem oriented, exploring difficulties and searching for solutions to avoid or prevent a crisis. During the last decades, the focus upon resilience has become more prevalent. Resilience is increasingly a buzz word. Problem orientated research is losing ground to studies of the capability to overcome a crisis without losing “normal” functioning.

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