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Not Born a Refugee Woman

Not Born a Refugee Woman: Contesting Identities, Rethinking Practices

Maroussia Hajdukowski-Ahmed
Nazilla Khanlou
Helene Moussa
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 336
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  • Book Info
    Not Born a Refugee Woman
    Book Description:

    Not Born a Refugee Womanis an in-depth inquiry into the identity construction of refugee women. It challenges and rethinks current identity concepts, policies, and practices in the context of a globalizing environment, and in the increasingly racialized post-September 11th context, from the perspective of refugee women. This collection brings together scholar_practitioners from across a wide range of disciplines. The authors emphasize refugee women's agency, resilience, and creativity, in the continuum of domestic, civil, and transnational violence and conflicts, whether in flight or in resettlement, during their uprooted journey and beyond. Through the analysis of local examples and international case studies, the authors critically examine gendered and interrelated factors such as location, humanitarian aid, race, cultural norms, and current psycho-social research that affect the identity and well being of refugee women. This volume is destined to a wide audience of scholars, students, policy makers, advocates, and service providers interested in new developments and critical practices in domains related to gender and forced migrations.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-026-5
    Subjects: Sociology, Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Lists of Tables, Maps, and Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-24)
    Maroussia Hajdukowski-Ahmed, Nazilla Khanlou and Helene Moussa

    Over the past twenty-five years, the discourse on the construction of refugee women’s identities and their agency has followed several paths, often challenging assumptions about women in general and specifically about women who have been uprooted from their communities because of war, civil upheaval, and/or human rights violations.

    In this introduction to the book, our reflection on the discourse on refugee women attempts to identify the main themes in research, policy, and practice from selected international and Canadian moments since the 1980s. The changing discourse that defined refugee women’s identities and their agency will be highlighted. This reflection does not...

  7. [Section I Introduction]
    (pp. 25-27)

    The authors of the first four chapters establish a conceptual framework for this book that challenges dichotomies and categorizations which silence or misrepresent refugee women and their experience, conceal their accomplishments, and limit their potential. From the challenges emerge new approaches to the conceptualization of refugee women’s identity that impact research, policies, and practices.

    In the first chapter,A Dialogical Perspective on the Identity of Refugee Women and its Implications,Maroussia Hajdukowski-Ahmed examines identity theories from a dialogical feminist perspective in relationship to the works of scholars/practitioners in feminist and refugee studies. From a dialogical perspective, the self is constructed...

  8. 1 A Dialogical Approach to Identity: Implications for Refugee Women
    (pp. 28-54)
    Maroussia Hajdukowski-Ahmed

    The question of identity is part and parcel of our modern world and has elicited a number of important works, such as Charles Taylor’sSources of the Self(1989) or Judith Butler’sGender Trouble(1990). The so-called “crisis of identity” is seen as part of a wider process of transformation which is dislocating the central structures and processes of modern societies—marked by demographic pluralism and mobility—and is undermining the frameworks which gave individuals stable grounding in the social world (Hall 1994). Identity is also at the heart of contemporary postmodernist and feminist debates born from narratives of the borderline (Anzaldua...

  9. 2 The Gender Relations of Home, Security, and Transversal Feminism: Refugee Women Reclaiming Their Identity
    (pp. 55-66)
    Wenona Giles

    As I began to write this chapter,¹ people in Toronto came together to oppose the United States led war against Iraq. Many among the crowd were also opposing homelessness. The slogan in a leaflet that announced the Saturday march was “Homes, Not Bombs”:

    Saturday March 15th

    STOP the WAR on IRAQ

    12 noon US Consulate 360 University Ave.

    followed by a march to join with housing activists of the Toronto

    Disaster Relief Committee at the Moss Park Armory to demand homes not bombs.

    The connection between war and homelessness continues to be stark. The organizers and participants associated with this...

  10. 3 Always “Natasha”: The Transnational Sex Trafficking of Women
    (pp. 67-82)
    Victor Malarek and Sarah V. Wayland

    Nineteen-year-old Marika of Kharkiv, Ukraine, thought she was going to Tel Aviv to work as a waitress. Desperate for work, with a sick mother, an unemployed, alcoholic father, and two younger sisters who were wasting away, Marika seized the opportunity to earn some money for her family. Three days after leaving her home, she was brought to an apartment in Tel Aviv with four other women, two from Ukraine, one from Russia, and one from Moldova. Alarge, muscular man guarded the only door. After showering, the women were provided with sheer lingerie and told to put it on. The women...

  11. 4 Reconstituting the Subject: Feminist Politics of Humanitarian Assistance
    (pp. 83-96)
    Jennifer Hyndman and Malathi de Alwis

    This chapter examines specific ways in which gender relations and identities of displaced women are reshaped by humanitarian aid programs in Sri Lanka. First, we explore the theoretical and practical stakes of focusing on “women-based,” “gender-based,” or “feminist” approaches to conceptualizing humanitarian programs. Second, we illustrate how various forms of humanitarian assistance by nongovernmental organizations conceive of the displaced persons, either as beneficiaries of their programs or as participants in training courses that aim to enhance employment prospects. Training programs in trades such as masonry, carpentry, and tractor repair for men displaced by the war in Sri Lanka reinforce gender...

  12. [Section II Introduction]
    (pp. 97-100)

    The next four chapters analyze how theoretical assumptions are framed and reframed to take into account the context of refugee/displaced women’s identities. The researchers’ positioning and assumptions about uprooted women’s agencies are also challenged.

    Adrienne Chambon’s study (chapter 5), which is grounded in a research project aimed at assessing a settlement program for refugees, reflects on what happens in the course of knowledge transmission between refugee women and researchers. Conversation and dialogue between a range of staff/volunteers and a group of women refugees was the method by which the staff/volunteers initially wanted to examine the structure of the one-on-one befriending...

  13. 5 Befriending Refugee Women: Refracted Knowledge and Shifting Viewpoints
    (pp. 101-112)
    Adrienne Chambon

    What happens to knowledge by way of refraction and through varied transmission? What can be known, told, and shown in conducting research regarding the life circumstances of refugee women? I wish to focus on research, as a practice of conversation and of dialogue, and to offer an account of what happens in the conduct of research when it is structured by a series of conversations with deliberate variations in the composition of the groups.

    Grounding my reflections in a research project, I examine the structure of our encounters, our practices of talking and of telling, and the shaping of our...

  14. 6 “Days You Remember”: Japanese Canadian Women and the Violence of Internment
    (pp. 113-134)
    Pamela Sugiman

    On 22 September 1988, after a concerted campaign led by the National Association of Japanese Canadians (NAJC), the Government of Canada formally acknowledged that its treatment of persons of Japanese ancestry during and after the Second World War was unjust and in violation of human rights’ principles, as officially upheld in the contemporary period.¹ The Prime Minister of Canada pledged furthermore to ensure that such events not happen again, and publicly recognized the strength of Japanese Canadians in their steadfast commitment and loyalty to the nation (Miki and Kobayashi 1991: 138–39).² As a symbolic redress for past wrongs, the...

  15. 7 War, Diaspora, Learning, and Women’s Standpoint
    (pp. 135-149)
    Rachel Gorman and Shahrzad Mojab

    This chapter represents a first formal attempt to record theory and method developments of a critical feminist research project on the learning of Kurdish women—specifically women who have experienced war and national/political oppression and who have escaped the Kurdish region into Europe or North America.¹ This is a self-reflexive piece on our research process, thus representing more of our thinking than the Kurdish women’s narratives of war and diaspora. Our research has shone a light on the point at which two of the major contributions of feminist research intersect—the project of revealing subjugated knowledge and the process of...

  16. 8 Being a Writer on Women, Violence, and War
    (pp. 150-162)
    Madeleine Gagnon

    With the hindsight of some five years, if I want to accurately inform you of what the writing of the bookWomen in a World at Warwas for me, I must first discuss its genesis, as well as its conception and its realization.¹

    In 1998, with my colleague and friend Monique Durand, a journalist and director with Radio-Canada, the project was born, and it would soon become ajourneyand a fieldexperience. I will address these two terms later. For both of us, it started as an intuition, what philosophers would call a hypothesis: if, as the second...

  17. [Section III Introduction]
    (pp. 163-165)

    In mental health literature the dominant paradigm for examining the effects of forced migration and displacement on populations has been psychiatry and to some extent psychology. Empirical studies conducted from these perspectives have provided us with valuable information on the human vulnerability and suffering experienced by refugee populations. This information has had direct relevance for those working with refugee men, women, and children in the healthcare and social services sectors. Such studies, often conducted in refugee receiving societies in the West, have also pointed toward the intersecting barriers for refugee populations in their new countries of settlement and the long-term...

  18. 9 The Representation of Refugee Women in Our Research and Practice
    (pp. 166-172)
    Maryanne Loughry

    In recent years, in my area of research and teaching, which is psychosocial work with refugees, there has been a split between those researchers and humanitarian workers who have conceptualized refugees as traumatized and needy, and those who have perceived the vast majority of refugees to be resilient and resourceful, with only a small proportion of the refugee population needing professional psychological assistance (should it be available). In one sense this is a simplistic characterization of psychosocial work with refugees, yet in another sense it is precisely these different conceptualizations that have shaped the various expressions of psychosocial work that...

  19. 10 Refugee Youth, Gender, and Identity: On the Margins of Mental Health Promotion
    (pp. 173-179)
    Nazilla Khanlou and Sepali Guruge

    In this chapter we explore the identity and mental health of refugee female youth. Specifically we consider identity as an aspect of mental well being and approach the topic of identity from a developmental psychological perspective within the resettlement context. While we recognize the importance of the social and geopolitical dimensions of identity, we argue that its psychological dimension also has particular relevance to mental health promotion initiatives. Our focus of inquiry in this chapter is on youth. We distinguish this group from children and consider it as the psychosocial period between childhood and adulthood. As these stages of human...

  20. 11 Pray God and Keep Walking: Religion, Gender, Identity, and Refugee Women
    (pp. 180-195)
    Elźbieta M. Goździak

    The title of my chapter,Pray God and Keep Walking,comes from a book by the late Bea Hackett (Hackett 1996). Bea’s volume includes narratives by twenty-eight refugee women who discuss how their lives have been shaped and rearranged by flight and loss, by refugee camps, by resettlement policies, and by their own individual responses, skills, and initiatives. Although spirituality and religion are not the main focus of Hackett’s book, many of the narratives are testimonies to the strength refugee women derive from prayer and faith. The phrasePray God and keep walkingcomes from a story by a Haitian...

  21. 12 “We Want to Talk, They Give Us Pills”: Identity and Mental Health of Refugee Women from Sudan
    (pp. 196-214)
    Lynda Hayward, Maroussia Hajdukowski-Ahmed, Jenny Ploeg and Karen Trollope-Kumar

    Africa has been one of the two top sources of refugees to Canada since 1999. The number of refugees from Sudan has tripled from 1999 to 2004. Due to ongoing conflicts in Sudan, this trend is expected to continue, particularly with the tragedy of Darfur. However, studies on the issues faced by African women refugees are scarce (Cleaver and Wallace 1990).

    Although refugee women are normal people who are forced to deal with abnormal and traumatic situations, they tend to be socially constructed as victims and needy. Refugee women experience many of the hardships of men, but they also experience...

  22. [Section IV Introduction]
    (pp. 215-218)

    The double bind for refugee women is that the word “refugee” has come to mean powerlessness and subjugation while ostensibly conveying the need for protection under international law. Once they flee their countries, refugees have no rightsper se. In contrast, internally displaced persons (IDPs) are not even protected under international law because they remain in their own countries and are subject to the laws of the state. While international guidelines for the protection of IDPs were developed in 1996, these guidelines have no international legal enforcement power since they cannot supersede the laws of a sovereign state.¹ Trafficked women’s...

  23. 13 Protecting Refugee Women: UNHCR and the Gender Equity Challenge
    (pp. 219-227)
    Judith Kumin

    In preparing this chapter, I tried to remember the first time I thought consciously about how refugee women perceive themselves.¹ I can remember the occasion, even though it was more than twenty years ago, because it was on my first field assignment for UNHCR. I was sent to a beach in southern Thailand, near Songkhla. It was at the height of the Vietnamese “boat people” crisis, and I was expected to look into the needs of some refugees who were reported to be sheltering on the beach. It turned out to be a group of young women, none older than...

  24. 14 Social Protection of Refugee Women: Paradoxes, Tensions, and Directions
    (pp. 228-243)
    Patricia M. Daenzer

    “They may be living in a refugee camp or trying to survive in a country where they have no status and few, if any, rights. They may even be in detention or facing a risk of forced return to persecution. For them, resettlement to a third country represents the only available solution” (Canadian Council of Refugees: State of Refugees in Canada 2002).

    The 1951 Geneva Convention on Refugees incorporates no recognition of the gender-specific persecutions endured by women asylum seekers. Scholars and advocates persisted for decades in attempts to broaden the conventional definition of the term “refugee,” and to differentiate...

  25. 15 The Gender Factor in Refugee Determination and the Effect of “Gender Guidelines”
    (pp. 244-253)
    Geraldine Sadoway

    In July 1991, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) publishedGuidelines on the Protection of Refugee Women, drawing attention to the fact that, while the Refugee Convention¹ forms the basic legal instrument for the protection of all refugees, “refugee women and girls have special protection needs that reflect their gender” and “special efforts may be needed to resolve problems faced specifically by refugee women.”² In March of 1993 the Chair of the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB), Nurjehan Mawani, issued the Chairperson’sGuidelines on Women Refugee Claimants Fearing Gender-Related Persecution(hereafter referred to as the Gender...

  26. 16 Pursuing National Responsibility in a Post–9/11 World: Seeking Asylum in Canada from Gender Persecution
    (pp. 254-262)
    Carmela Murdocca

    In 1993 Canada became the first country to issue guidelines on refugee women claimants fleeing gender-related persecution. Since then other countries, following Canada’s lead (the United States, Australia, and Sweden, for example), have adopted their own guidelines, or have changed legislation to recognize gender-based persecution and asylum or have advanced the issue through the law.¹

    Beyond the fact that Canada has become a world leader in implementing human rights measures to protect women from gender-based persecution, thinking critically and acting legally in response to violations against women has emerged as a central component of national and international responsibility. The fact...

  27. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 263-269)
  28. References
    (pp. 270-301)
  29. Index
    (pp. 302-324)