Refugee Access to the Labour Market: Language Internships as Emancipation or Stratification

Dorte Lønsmann

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperResearchpeer-review


This paper presents the preliminary results of an ethnographic study of refugees in a combined language course and job-training programme in a Danish supermarket. As part of a larger project investigating the formation of social and linguistic norms in transient multilingual workplaces, the current study focuses on gatekeeping mechanisms for refugees trying to access the Danish job market, specifically during the process of transitioning from the job-training programme to a real job in the same organisation. Based on ethnographic observations and interviews with refugees, their Danish colleagues, and the organisational gatekeepers (managers and HR representatives), the project investigates the following research question: How do discourses about Danish language competences and Danish cultural competences influence the refugees’ opportunities for gaining employment? The analysis focuses on how different discourses are linked with the social and hierarchical positions of the participants, e.g. as managers and gatekeepers or as refugees and job seekers. In line with the theme of the panel, the paper also draws attention to the variety of roles and identities constructed for and by the researcher in critical ethnographic workplace research. The aim is to provide insights into how reflections on researcher positionality become particularly important when working with under-privileged participants.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date2017
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 2017
EventThe 11th International Symposium on Bilingualism. ISB11 - University of Limerick, Limerick, Ireland
Duration: 11 Jun 201715 Jun 2017
Conference number: 11


ConferenceThe 11th International Symposium on Bilingualism. ISB11
LocationUniversity of Limerick
Internet address

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