Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2803

Article | Open Access

Making Volunteering with Refugees Governable: The Contested Role of ‘Civil Society’ in the German Welcome Culture

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Abstract:  This article investigates the manifold attempts of governmental actors to make volunteering with refugees governable in light of the so-called German Welcome Culture in 2015. Driven by the notion of a need to interfere, authorities introduced numerous programmes and efforts seeking to order, coordinate, influence, and enhance volunteering with refugees in order to make it more “effective”. This investigation will suggest reading these interventions as attempts to (re)gain control and power over the conduct of committed citizens, making them complicit in the governance of asylum seekers, while co-opting potentially dissenting behaviour amongst them. Yet, it will also reveal how certain volunteers proved to contest their ascribed roles and responsibilities, demanding space for disagreement. Volunteering with refugees thus also constantly exceeded and defied governmental control and interference—and thereby remained, at least to a certain extent, ungovernable.

Keywords:  civil society; civic solidarity; European refugee crisis; Germany; governance; humanitarianism; refugees; volunteering; Welcome Culture



© Larissa Fleischmann. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.