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  • Open Access
  • © 2018

Inside Asylum Bureaucracy: Organizing Refugee Status Determination in Austria


  • This open access book provides sociological insight into governmental action on the administration of asylum in Austria

  • Links the empirical findings to sociological theory

  • Provides findings based on an institutional ethnography case study

Part of the book series: IMISCOE Research Series (IMIS)

Buying options

Softcover Book USD 59.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Hardcover Book USD 59.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)

Table of contents (12 chapters)

  1. Front Matter

    Pages i-xv
  2. Claiming Asylum in the Twenty-first Century: An Institutional Perspective

    1. Front Matter

      Pages 1-1
    2. Introduction

      • Julia Dahlvik
      Pages 3-28Open Access
  3. Setting the Scene: The Context and Circumstances of Work at the Federal Asylum Office

    1. Front Matter

      Pages 41-41
    2. The Organization: Structure, Environment and Socialization

      • Julia Dahlvik
      Pages 43-80Open Access
  4. Performing the Maneuver: Handling Four Dilemmas in Everyday Asylum Bureaucracy

    1. Front Matter

      Pages 115-117
    2. Regulation vs. Room for Maneuver

      • Julia Dahlvik
      Pages 119-132Open Access
    3. Definitiveness vs. Uncertainty

      • Julia Dahlvik
      Pages 133-151Open Access
    4. The Human Individual vs. the Faceless Case

      • Julia Dahlvik
      Pages 153-164Open Access
    5. Responsibility vs. Dissociation

      • Julia Dahlvik
      Pages 165-178Open Access
  5. Conclusion and Prospects: Theorizing Public Officials’ Practices and Practical Ways Ahead

    1. Front Matter

      Pages 179-180
    2. Practical Implications: How to Deal with Structural Dilemmas?

      • Julia Dahlvik
      Pages 195-208Open Access

About this book

This open access monograph provides sociological insight into governmental action on the administration of asylum in the European context. It offers an in-depth understanding of how decision-making officials encounter and respond to structural contradictions in the asylum procedure produced by diverging legal, political, and administrative objectives.

The study focuses on structural aspects on the one hand, such as legal and organisational elements, and aspects of agency on the other hand, examining the social practices and processes going on at the frontside and the backside of the administrative asylum system.

Coverage is based on a case study using ethnographic methods, including qualitative interviews, participant observation, as well as artefact analysis. This case study is positioned within a broader context and allows for comparison within and beyond the European system, building a bridge to the international scientific community.

In addition, the author links the empirical findings to sociological theory. She explains the identified patterns of social practice in asylum administration along the theories of social practices, social construction and structuration. This helps to contribute to the often missing theoretical development in this particular field of research.

Overall, this book provides a sociological contribution to a key issue in today's debate on immigration in Europe and beyond. It will appeal to researchers, policy makers, administrators, and practitioners as well as students and readers interested in immigration and asylum.


  • Public administration of asylum applications in Europe
  • Determining refugee status in the street-level bureaucracy
  • Individual-institution interaction
  • Institutional ethnography
  • Theory of social practices
  • Immigration in Europe
  • Open access


“Understanding the ongoing European migrant crisis and its political/policy implications requires paying attention to what happens at the local and bureaucratic levels. Julia Dahlvik’s book provides a strong contribution in both regards, shedding light on the daily enforcement of asylum procedures in Austria. A must-read in the domains of refugee issues and of street-level bureaucracy.” (Professor Vincent Dubois, University of Strasbourg)

“This book delves into the heart of the matter. It examines the process of claiming asylum in Austria from a little research yet essential perspective, that of government unit responsible for assessing the credibility of asylum applications. With analytical clarity, it exposes the underlying social construction of asylum determination.” (Dawn Chatty, Emeritus Professor of Anthropology and Forced Migration, University of Oxford)

“Julia Dahlvik’s ‘Inside Asylum Bureaucracy’ confronts troubling a contemporary social issue: the surge of asylum seekers. Her book digs deep into human rights and asylum policies and narrates experiences with and within the asylum bureaucracies. Dahlvik contests and expands street-level bureaucracy, structuration, and social construction theories. Inside Asylum Bureaucracy is based on original and compelling qualitative research and will join Sule Tomkinson’s forthcoming book, Knocking on Canada's Door: Refugee Decision Making on the Frontlines (University of British Columbia Press) as the fundamental works in this field (Professor Steven Maynard-Moody, Director of the Institute for Policy & Social Research, and Professor of Public Affairs & Administration at the University of Kansas)

Authors and Affiliations

  • FH Campus Wien, University of Applied Sciences, Wien, Austria

    Julia Dahlvik

About the author

Julia Dahlvik is researcher and lecturer at the department of Public Management of the Vienna University of Applied Sciences (FH Campus Wien). She earned her PhD in sociology in 2014 and holds a Master’s degree in translation and interpreting. Julia previously worked at the Austrian Academy of Sciences, as a lecturer at the Universities of Vienna and Innsbruck, and was a visiting researcher at the Universities of Stanford and Amsterdam. Her research focuses on organizations, migration and asylum, law and society. 

Bibliographic Information

  • Book Title: Inside Asylum Bureaucracy: Organizing Refugee Status Determination in Austria

  • Authors: Julia Dahlvik

  • Series Title: IMISCOE Research Series

  • DOI:

  • Publisher: Springer Cham

  • eBook Packages: Social Sciences, Social Sciences (R0)

  • Copyright Information: The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2018

  • License: CC BY

  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-3-319-63305-3

  • Softcover ISBN: 978-3-030-09690-8

  • eBook ISBN: 978-3-319-63306-0

  • Series ISSN: 2364-4087

  • Series E-ISSN: 2364-4095

  • Edition Number: 1

  • Number of Pages: XV, 208

  • Number of Illustrations: 7 b/w illustrations

  • Topics: Human Migration, Sociology

Buying options

Softcover Book USD 59.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Hardcover Book USD 59.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)