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Space, experience and authority : Exploring attitudes towards refugee centers in Belgium

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This paper reports on ongoing research on attitudes towards the establishing of refugee centers in Belgium. Attitudes are here defined ethnographically as discursive and active constructs and processes often captured under statified terms such as “attitude” or “opinion”. Based on an analysis of preliminary findings from one town, Beersel, a number of insights into the connection between space and the structure, quality and distribution of such attitudes could be distilled. In particular, distance and proximity appeared as crucial factors explaining qualitative differences in attitudes, often revolving around the possibilities offered by proximity to construct authority claims about “translocal” information (e.g. media reports) and to construct a habitus of “knower” of a particular topic. We thus arrive at new, complex and dynamic concepts of community as political units organized around particular topics and discursive procedures, while such units are determined by space. These findings and concepts challenge and destabilize more widespread notions of “public opinion”.
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Keywords: Belgium; asylum seekers; community; networks; public opinion; space

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2003

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