Not in My Backyard: Boundary, Text and Agency in the Case of Refugee Housing in Residential Neighbourhoods in Hamburg

Lisa Koch

Student thesis: Master thesis


Organisations have to be conceived as “boundary- maintaining systems”; they cannot exist without boundaries. These organisational boundaries are defined on the basis of constituting criteria for organisations: membership, activity coordination, selfstructuring and institutional positioning. Based on these criteria, four organisations will be described in the thesis: Hamburg’s district council, refugees coming to Hamburg, residents of neighbourhoods where the council plans to accommodate refugees and the city of Hamburg as a meta- organisation. In 2014, 626 000 asylum seekers registered in the European Union, up 44% from the year before. At a total of 202 700, Germany received the majority of these claims. Once arrived in Germany, asylum- seekers are accommodated at an initial reception facility where their cases are being registered. After this, they are allocated to housing estates according to a quota. Hamburg receives about 2.5% of all applicants. Currently, the council faces various forms of opposition from residents of the concerned neighbourhoods. Opposition ranges from verbal criticism and strong language at information meetings to legal actions to stop housing projects. The thesis explains this phenomenon by elaborating on the theoretical discussion of the Communicative Constitution of Organisations (CCO) with respect to the coconstitution of organisational boundaries. The thesis asks how residents and the city council conceive the city of Hamburg and in how far this organisation can be considered a meta-organisation. The results show that some residents consider the city of Hamburg a set, unchangeable meta-organisation where unknown entrants such as refugees are not desired. They draw an image of the organisation refugees that suggests the latter do not resemble themselves and therefore are a poor fit for the meta-organisation. On the contrary, the district council suggests neighbours and refugees are not that different and refugees are thus a suitable member organisation. At information meetings, the council has to be aware of the different realities. An information meeting cannot be considered an opportunity to bring about change within either organisation; the actual area of action should be the meta-organisation.

EducationsMSc in Brand and Communications Management, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2015
Number of pages56