Citizen humanitarianism in Europe has been contrasted and compared to professional aid through attributes like cultivating affectionate and intimate relationships with migrants. Bringing this literature into conversation with anthropological theory, this article explores the building of kinship between Norwegian citizens and asylum seekers from the Middle East. Drawing on long-term fieldwork, digital observations, and interviews with Norwegian citizens, we discuss the selective formation of these relationships and some of the personal and political effects and tensions they generated. We show that the ‘conversion’ of asylum seekers to kin challenged established hierarchies of vulnerability and deservingness while reinforcing other logics, including the primacy of psychological trauma and affinity. Moreover, ‘kinning’ instigated obligations to support migrants and facilitated cultural exchange and political engagement. While sometimes causing pain and tensions with Norwegian authorities or other family members, caring for migrants as kin was considered meaningful and redemptive by our informants, whose motivations were both personal and future-oriented. Ultimately, we argue that kinship relations and care between Norwegian citizens and asylum seekers both challenge and reinforce conventional models and imaginations of humanitarianism. We also reflect on the transformative potential of these relationships and suggest avenues for further research.

Heidi Mogstad

Post Doctoral Researcher

Thea Rabe