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Materialising Exile

Materialising Exile: Material Culture and Embodied Experience among Karenni Refugees in Thailand

Sandra H. Dudley
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 204
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  • Book Info
    Materialising Exile
    Book Description:

    Focusing on the highly diverse Karenni refugee population living in camps on the Thai-Burma border, this innovative book explores materiality, embodiment, memory, imagination, and identity among refugees, providing new and important ways of understanding how refugees make sense of experience, self, and other. It examines how and to what ends refugees perceive, represent, manipulate, use as metaphor, and otherwise engage with material objects and spaces, and includes a focus on the real and metaphorical journeys that bring about and perpetuate exile.

    The combined emphasis on both displacement and materiality, and the analysis of the cultural construction and intersections of exilic objects, spaces, and bodies, are unique in the study of both refugees and material culture. Drawing theoretical influences from phenomenology, aesthetics, and beyond, as well as from refugee studies and anthropology, the author addresses the current lack of theoretical analysis of the material, visual, spatial, and embodied aspects of forced migration, providing a fundamentally interlinked analysis of enforced exile and materiality.

    eISBN: 978-1-84545-809-6
    Subjects: Anthropology, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. ix-ix)
  4. Preface
    (pp. x-xiv)
  5. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xv-xv)
  6. Abbreviations
    (pp. xvi-xvi)
  7. 1 Materialising Exile and Karenni Refugees: An Introduction
    (pp. 1-26)

    This book explores the intrinsically cultural experience of forced migration through a focus on objects, places, sensory perception and conceptions of time and space. It asks what it feels like to be a refugee (c.f. Stoller 1989: 8) – what it feels like to be not a passive victim of circumstance, but an active agent busily engaged in daily life and in making sense and the best of the world as it is. It asks too what it means to feel ‘at home’, to feel that all is right with one’s world – and looks not only at ways in...

  8. 2 In-Between: Being a Karenni Refugee
    (pp. 27-66)

    In what circumstances do refugees live in Thailand? What is life like in the Karenni camps? How do Karenni refugees see themselves? How do self-perceptions shape, and in turn become shaped by, the experiences rendered by living in the camps? Before this book can proceed with its main concern of the materiality and bodily experience of lived meanings in forced migration, it is necessary to explore who the Karenni are and the nature and contexts of their displacement.

    This chapter looks at aspects of refugee-ness and the refugee camps themselves, and at how they have been and are experienced. It...

  9. 3 Inside/Outside: Refugee Journeys
    (pp. 67-90)

    Individual and shared experiences, encounters and reasons for flight, are diverse and, as we shall see, mutable in how they are recollected. What is the nature of these diverse experiences? How, why and in what circumstances are they recalled, retold and recast? In what ways do these recollections and reformulations influence how refugees see themselves in relation to the people and places left behind in Karenni State? This chapter looks at the processes by which individuals have become refugees, and at the different reasons for flight. It examines how first generation migrants remember, imaginatively reconstruct, represent and feel about both...

  10. 4 Remembering, Forgetting and Imagining the Pre-Exile Past
    (pp. 91-124)

    This chapter examines how and for what purpose refugees remember, imagine and seek to maintain some sort of continuity with the more distant, pre-flight past. The chapter explores the roles within these processes both of material objects with certain associations and of culturally constituted ways of sensing and interpreting them. In particular, the chapter focuses upon dress and an annual festival, examining the multiple and mutable meanings and values attributed to them by refugees and their especial significance in the experience of displacement. The interlinkages between the senses, the body, objects and memory are, as we shall see, both complex...

  11. 5 Coping and (Re)constructing ‘Home’ in Displacement
    (pp. 125-154)

    The previous two chapters have explored differing aspects of spatiotemporal experience through the recent to the more distant – and, often, imaginary – past. Now, we move forward to ‘the present’, looking more closely at quotidian life in the refugee camps and the range of meanings attributed to, and derived from, elements of it. This will entail exploring some of the ways in which Karenni refugees cope with and represent the stressful experiences they have undergone and continue to undergo, in the process looking at some of the everyday, civic and religious objects and processes that play significant parts in...

  12. 6 Materialising Home and Exile
    (pp. 155-166)

    This book has considered the diversity of ways in which Karenni refugees conceptualise, represent, manipulate and engage with material objects, ritual and other cultural practice, metaphorical and literal extended space and landscape, the past and present, and their impacts on the experience of forced migration and vice versa. Clearly, Karenni refugees are not passive victims of circumstance but busy giving meaning to their displacement and seeking to make the best of their lot. Nonetheless, being displaced is difficult and brings with it a range of tensions; after all, ‘[t]o be in exile is to have been deprived of a land...

  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 167-184)
  14. Index
    (pp. 185-188)