Perception of Refugees in Lithuania

Keywords: perception, refugees, integration, resistance, media, cultural model


This article offers a partial answer to the question, “why are the vast majority of Lithuanians opposed to refugees immigrating to Lithuania?” I use cultural model theory (CMT) to find the salient characteristics Lithuanians attribute to refugees. Using methods associated with CMT, I shed light on some of the underlying conditions from which a negative perception of refugees emerges. Surprisingly, the negative image of refugees is not just reproduced from social media and news platforms that overwhelmingly depict refugees negatively but stems from Lithuanians’ precarious feelings about their own lives. I thus propose that Lithuanians cultural models of refugees do not simply mirror political or social media portrayals of them as folk devils, but that Lithuanians construct their own cultural models from their life experiences and use these to substantiate their cultural model of refugees.

Author Biography

Rūta Dapkūnaitė, University of Fribourg

Rūta Dapkūnaitė is an anthropologist, research fellow at BICEPS and a visiting academic at University of Oxford, COMPAS. She has completed MA in Social Anthropology at Vytautas Magnus University, attained the Southern Illinois University Certificate in Intercultural Understanding and is currently pursuing her PhD on the topic of displacement of people through the anthropological perspective.


Bennardo, Giovanni, and Victor C. De Munck. 2014. Cultural Models: Genesis, Methods, and Experiences. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Bornschier, Volker, and Bruno Trezzini. 1997. “Social Stratification and Mobility in the World System: Different Approaches and Recent Research.” International Sociology 12(4): 429–455.
Cohen, Stanley. 1972. Folk Devils and Moral Panic: The Creation of the Mods and Rockers. London: Routledge Classics.
Dengah II, H. J. François, Jeffrey G. Snodgrass, Evan R. Polzer, and William Cody Nixon. 2021. Systematic Methods for Analysing Culture. London: Taylor and Francis. Kindle Edition.
European Migration Network (EMN) Lithuania. 2018. “Migration Trends.” Accessed June 27, 2020.
European Website for Integration (EWSI). 2019. “Migrant Integration Governance in Lithuania.” Accessed June 27, 2020.
Foster, George M. 1965. “Peasant Society and the Image of Limited Good.” American Anthropologist 67(2): 293–315.
Dubow, Eric F., L. Rowell Huesmann, and Dara Greenwood. 2007. “Media and Youth Socialisation: Underlying Processes and Moderators of Effects.” In Handbook of Socialisation: Theory and Research, edited by J. E. Grusec, and P. D. Hastings, 404–430. New York: The Guilford Press.
Handwerker, W. Penn, J. Harris, and J. Hutcherson. 1997. “Sampling Guidelines for Cultural Data.” Cultural Anthropology Methods 8: 7–9.
Holland, Dorothy, and Naomi Quinn. 1987. Cultural Models in Language and Thought. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Lindberg, Annika, and Lisa Marie Borrelli. 2021. “All Quiet on the ‘Eastern Front? Controlling Transit Migration in Latvia and Lithuania.” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 47(1): 307–323.
Platform for Migration Information and Cooperation (MIPAS). 2017. “Receipt of Asylum Seekers and Asylum System.” Accessed July 7, 2020.
Robila, Mihaela. 2018. “Refugees and Social Integration in Europe. Division for Social Policy and Development.” United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA).
Rytter, Mikkel. 2019. “Writing Against Integration: Danish Imaginaries of Culture, Race and Belonging.” Ethnos 84(4): 678–697.
Standing, Guy. 2012. “The Precariat: From Denizens to Citizens?” Polity 44(4): 588–608.
Standing, Guy. 2014. “The Precariat.” Contexts 13(4): 10–12.
Vermeulen, Hans, and M. J. A. Penninx. 2000. Immigrant Integration: The Dutch Case. Amsterdam: Het Spinhuis.
How to Cite
Dapkūnaitė, Rūta. 2023. “Perception of Refugees in Lithuania”. Swiss Journal of Sociocultural Anthropology 28 (February):150–157.