Categorizing people, controlling borders: State attempts to define and select the ”right refugee” in Sweden and Canada

Research project
Active research
Project period
2017 - ongoing
Project owner
School of Public Administration

School of Public Administration

Short description

My dissertation concerns how states define what a refugee is, how they differ and why. It’s a qualitative, historical examination comparing the development of Canadian and Swedish refugee policy since the mid-1970s to present time. I study how states have developed systems for migration control which aim to standardize human traits and identities in order to select the migrants who are deemed deserving of help.

In Canadian refugee policy, refugees were long defined as adaptable individuals, whereas in its Swedish counterpart, they were defined as vulnerable individuals. I’m especially interested in the role of categories in state attempts to control migration, such as unaccompanied minors, the categories’ origins and what happens when refugees escape them in different ways. Through these categories, states determine who get to stay and the terms of their stay. I use historical institutionalist theory and theories concerning the role of categories in policymaking.


Andreas Lundstedt Doctoral Student

Vicki Johansson Supervisor

Gregg Bucken-Knapp Assistant Supervisor

Sara Kalm (Lund University)  Assistant Supervisor