Vida Parado, Vida Stagnado, Vida di Merda: An ethnography of the everyday life of homeless african migrants in Copenhagen

Sara Høier Olsen, Jose Joaquin Arce Bayona, Kasper Løvbjerg Hansen & Jokūbas Ragauskas

Studenteropgave: Semesterprojekt


This project is about homeless migrants in Copenhagen. More specifically, it is about a group of African migrants who migrated in the past from the difficult socio-economic conditions in their countries in Africa, to the European south. Like in the past, the lack of social possibilities in this region, as a result of the current financial/economic crisis, has forced them to move up North once again, this time, to Copenhagen. Here, they have found themselves in the streets, surviving as modern hunter gatherers. Building from fieldwork carried out in two shelters for the homeless in Copenhagen for a period of four months, this project is an ethnographic study of the everyday life of homeless African migrants. Drawing on the work of Michel de Certeau and Erving Goffman, we explore several aspects of the everyday life of homeless African migrants in Copenhagen. More concretely, we explore the different strategies deployed by institutional apparatuses operating at several spatial scales (the EU, the Danish national Government and the Copenhagen Municipality) through which African migrants are, directly or indirectly, regulated and controlled. The different spatial practices and tactics through which homeless migrants divert the panoptic practices of this institutions, (re) use and (re) appropriate urban places in Copenhagen to survive the precarious realities of their everyday life. The role that social networks play in the constitution of different tactics and forms of situational solidarity; and how African migrants negotiate their identities in everyday encounters in public places. It is concluded that the different strategies deployed by institutional apparatuses, intentionally or unintentionally, hinder the ability of migrants to gain access to housing and employment. Furthermore, the African migrants we have worked with, rather than being passive victims, are resourceful subjects, able to devise a variety of tactics to survive the precarious and uncertain conditions of their everyday life in Copenhagen. 

UddannelserGeografi, (Bachelor/kandidatuddannelse) Bachelor el. kandidat
Udgivelsesdato16 jun. 2014
VejledereKristine Juul


  • Copenhagen
  • mobility
  • strategies
  • migrants
  • everyday life
  • survival
  • homeless
  • tactics