Transnational Nomads

Transnational Nomads: How Somalis Cope with Refugee Life in the Dadaab Camps of Kenya

Cindy Horst
Copyright Date: 2008
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 252
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  • Book Info
    Transnational Nomads
    Book Description:

    There is a tendency to consider all refugees as 'vulnerable victims': an attitude reinforced by the stream of images depicting refugees living in abject conditions.

    This groundbreaking study of Somalis in a Kenyan refugee camp reveals the inadequacy of such assumptions by describing the rich personal and social histories that refugees bring with them to the camps. The author focuses on the ways in which Somalis are able to adapt their 'nomadic' heritage in order to cope with camp life; a heritage that includes a high degree of mobility and strong social networks that reach beyond the confines of the camp as far as the U.S. and Europe.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-438-6
    Subjects: Sociology, Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. List of Figures, Maps and Tables
    (pp. vi-vi)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vii-ix)
  5. Maps
    (pp. x-xi)
  6. Abbreviations
    (pp. xii-xiv)
  7. 1 At a Distance? An Introduction
    (pp. 1-36)

    On 23 November 1999, I met Axmed¹ in Dagahaley camp during a second interview with his uncle, Roble Abdiraxman.² I had been in Dadaab for almost four months by then, and Dagahaley was the second camp in which I stayed. Early in November, I had gone to each section of the camp to introduce myself and explain the purpose of my presence in the area. When I reached block C6, Roble was amongst the people I met. He was very outspoken and wanted to know where I was from, telling me that he would soon go for resettlement to the...

  8. 2 A Nomadic Heritage: Past Ways of Coping With Insecurity Amongst the Somali
    (pp. 37-76)

    In a meeting with a group of CDWs in Dagahaley, I introduced an analysis of the Somali ‘nomadic heritage’ of mobility, diversification and a strong social network. Afterwards, many points related to my findings were discussed. Yasiin Hussein, an elderly Somali CDW, stepped forward and made a poignant comment. He had heard me explain how the refugees in Dadaab managed to survive through certain sociocultural practices, but he had not heard any account of their suffering in the camps. In kind words, Yasiin told me that this was a great omission, since the refugees were confined to the camps like...

  9. 3 Refugee Life in the Camps: Providing Security or Sustaining Dependency?
    (pp. 77-122)

    Hajir Aden, who works as a headmaster in Hagadera, once gave me a very clear and striking description of his life in the camp: ‘By now, personally I have adapted to the life here, to being a refugee, to being spoonfed. But the problem is that we have stayed in refugee camps for ten years, with no hope of getting citizenship or at least equal human rights. We are not allowed to earn the same amount of money as Kenyan citizens, our movements are restricted and we cannot settle anywhere in Kenya. After disintegrating and collapsing due to clan conflicts,...

  10. 4 Transnational Livelihoods: The Role of Taar and Xawilaad
    (pp. 123-160)

    Refugee camps are often depicted as excluded and isolated areas with no connections to wider networks. This assumption denies the realities of life in many places, where, due to technological developments in transport and communication, people have become connected to other areas and receive money and information from elsewhere. Although Dadaab is certainly an isolated place, in terms of its geography and limited road network, this does not inhibit transnational connections. I will demonstrate that the strong social networks that enabled Somalis to cope with insecurities before and during the war are still present and play a vital role in...

  11. 5 Buufis: Imagining or Realising Migration to the West
    (pp. 161-200)

    Bashir Mahat and Abdulahi Noor collected information onbuufisin Hagadera after participating in a course I organised on ‘Data collection and report writing’. They experimented with a number of the methods of data collection that I had discussed and submitted reports to me of several structured and unstructured interviews as well as unobtrusive observations that they had carried out in the camp. One of their reports describes how they visited a Somali man in their block with the intention of interviewing him, using a list of questions they had prepared onbuufis. The man told them that he had...

  12. 6 Historical and Transnational Approaches to Refugee Studies
    (pp. 201-216)

    By studying the transnational assistance networks of Somalis in Dadaab, thus linking the livelihoods of refugees in camps to those of their relatives elsewhere, I have attempted to move away from compartmentalised studies on IDPs, returnees, refugees in regional camps, urban refugees and resettled refugees. In my view, refugee studies should develop a more integrated, transnational approach that analyses the connections between these different groups. Furthermore, I have stressed the need for a historical analysis of the situation of those who live in protracted refugee situations. ¹ Like many others in refugee camps, Somalis in Dadaab were familiar with insecurity...

  13. Glossary
    (pp. 217-218)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 219-230)
  15. Index
    (pp. 231-238)