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Taking the „Just“ Decision. Caseworkers and their Communities of Interpretation in the Swiss Asylum Office.

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Contribution to book (peer-reviewed)
Author Affolter Laura / Poertner Ephraim / Miaz Jonathan,
Project Doing Credibility; The Construction of Credibility in Swiss Asylum Procedures
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Contribution to book (peer-reviewed)

Book Asylum Determination in Europe: Ethnographic Perspectives.
Editor , Gill Nick / Good Anthony
Publisher Palgrave, Cham
Page(s) 263 - 283
ISBN 978-3-319-94748-8
Title of proceedings Asylum Determination in Europe: Ethnographic Perspectives.
DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-94749-5

Open Access

Type of Open Access Publisher (Gold Open Access)


Decision-making in street-level bureaucracies has often been portrayed as being riddled with a practical dilemma: that of having to juggle between compassion and rigid rule-following. However, drawing on three ethnographic studies of Swiss asylum administration, we argue that often what are from the ‘outside’ perceived as conflicting rationales of decision-making, are not experienced as such by the caseworkers themselves. Rather these different rationales are made to fit. We argue that decision-makers’ ‘volitional allegiance’ with the office plays a crucial role thereby. For the caseworkers we encountered, decision-making is about taking ‘just decisions’, i.e. decisions that they consider ‘correct’ and ‘fair’. We suggest that these notions of correctness and fairness are crucially influenced by their affiliations and allegiances with different ‘communities of interpretation’ within the office.