Five Years of Voluntary Refugee Aid in Germany

A Retrospective Analysis of Discourse, Local Organisation and the Emotions Involved


  • Kim Bräuer Technische Universität Braunschweig. Institute of Sociology



Refugee aid, Voluntary work, Power, Media coverage, Emotions


This article examines voluntary refugee aid from 2015 to 2020, investigating the extent to which volunteers and refugee aid recipients have related their perceptions and emotional interpretations to the welcoming discourse and the local organisation of voluntary refugee aid. The analysis was based on contrasting sample of interviews and newspaper articles and includes a comparison of the politicised metropolitan refugee aid in Berlin with traditional charity-based aid in Braunschweig. It becomes evident that the emotional perceptions of volunteers differ depending on their reason for helping and their previous experiences. In addition, the article suggests that the recipients of refugee aid, most notably shortly after their arrival, do not refer to the welcoming discourse but instead to their own experiences or those of their acquaintances.

Combining the concepts of governmentality and performativity, I use a critical perspective on power and add an affect-theoretical level in the sense of immersive power. This theoretical view raises awareness of the significance of affects and emotions in voluntary refugee aid.

Overall, the stance of the article shifts. It sees refugees not only as persons in need of help but contrasts this image with the potential they offer. It takes a critical look at the last five years of voluntary refugee aid and considers the implications for voluntary refugee aid if, indeed, emotions are as significant as they appear in the article.

* This article belongs to a special issue on "Refugee Migration to Europe – Challenges and Potentials for Cities and Regions".




How to Cite

Bräuer, K. 2022. Five Years of Voluntary Refugee Aid in Germany: A Retrospective Analysis of Discourse, Local Organisation and the Emotions Involved. Comparative Population Studies. 47, (Aug. 2022). DOI:



Research Articles