Collection: NJMR Special Issue - Volume 10, Issue 4

Special Issue Article

Precarious Citizenship and Melancholic Longing: On the Value of Volunteering after the Refugee Arrivals to Europe 2015



Based on fieldwork conducted in 2018 among volunteers who participated in the refugee reception at Copenhagen and Flensburg central train stations during the ‘summer of welcome’ in Europe 2015, this article examines tensions between volunteers’ retrospective accounts of acting upon a pronounced humanitarian crisis (‘the refugee crisis’) and the existential crisis, when the state of urgency has moved elsewhere. Based on the volunteers’ recollections, we argue that the practices of volunteering enacted different registers of doing good, which gave rise to a (momentary) Europe-wide civil society by ‘doing the right thing’, yet also created a paradoxical longing for this particular sociality of civil society action interlinked with crisis. We designate this longing the melancholy of volunteering as it announces an ungrievable loss of the sociality presupposed by crisis. These tensions between being able to do good and the melancholy of volunteeering enables us to envision European civil society as a troubled topos for political participation.


Refugee arrivals 2015refugee reliefcitizenshipstate of exceptioncrisismelancholy
  • Year: 2020
  • Volume: 10 Issue: 4
  • Page/Article: 41-56
  • DOI: 10.33134/njmr.357
  • Submitted on 30 Aug 2019
  • Accepted on 15 Jun 2020
  • Published on 26 Nov 2020
  • Peer Reviewed