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Refugees and the Transformation of Societies

Refugees and the Transformation of Societies: Agency, Policies, Ethics and Politics

Philomena Essed
Georg Frerks
Joke Schrijvers
Copyright Date: 2004
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 248
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  • Book Info
    Refugees and the Transformation of Societies
    Book Description:

    The refusal or reception of refugees has had serious implications for the social policies and social realities of numerous countries in east and west. Exploring experiences, interpretations and practices of 'refugees,' 'the internally displaced' and 'returnees' in or emerging from societies in violent conflict, this volume challenges prevailing orthodoxies and encourages new developments in refugee studies. It also addresses the ethics and politics of interventions by professionals and policy makers, using case studies of refugees from or in South Asia, the Middle East, North Africa, Europe and the Americas. These illustrate the dynamic nature of situations where refugees, policy- makers and practitioners interact in trying to construct new livelihoods in transforming societies.

    Without a proper understanding of this dynamic nature, so the volume argues overall, it is not possible to develop successful strategies for the accommodation and integration of refugees.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-708-0
    Subjects: Sociology, Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Philomena Essed, Georg Frerks and Joke Schrijvers
  4. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Introduction: Refugees, Agency and Social Transformation
    (pp. 1-16)
    Philomena Essed, Georg Frerks and Joke Schrijvers

    Refugees and the Transformation of Societiesis about cultures and societies in change, in the process of producing, refusing or receiving refugees. It explores experiences, interpretations and practices of ‘refugees’, ‘internally displaced’ and ‘returnees’ in or emerging from societies in violent conflict. It also addresses ethics and politics of interventions by professionals and policy makers. Contributions elicit specific contexts, histories, conflicts and negotiations in which refugees take part in the course of their flight and resettlement. Authors highlight the extremely dynamic nature of situations where refugees, policy makers and practitioners interact in trying to construct new livelihoods in transforming societies....

  6. Part I: ‘Refugeehood’:: Claiming Spaces and Responsibilities

    • 1 Refugeehood, Loss and Social Change: Eritrean Refugees and Returnees
      (pp. 19-30)
      Gaim Kibreab

      The chapter discusses the losses experienced by Eritrean refugees; analyses the processes of social change; and examines whether such changes constitute stimuli or constraints on development.

      Refugees are people who flee against their will because of fear for their lives. They are pushed from their social, cultural and economic moorings by conditions that are or are perceived to be potentially or imminently threatening to their physical safety, security, dignity, liberty and property. An actual or a perceived threat to these central tenets of human existence renders the place of abode hazardous and consequently makes the need to seek safe haven...

    • 2 Repatriation: Angolan Refugees or Migrating Villagers?
      (pp. 31-41)
      Oliver Bakewell

      Repatriation is often presented as the optimum durable solution to the refugee problem in Africa and it is taken for granted that the return of peace to a country will entail the return of the refugees who fled the war. This chapter questions this assumption by looking at the movement of self-settled refugees from Zambia to Angola as a process of migration rather than the end of the refugee cycle.

      Before considering voluntary repatriation as a solution, it is worth considering in greater detail the nature of the refugee problem it is expected to solve. It has three aspects that...

    • 3 Space and Movement in the Sri Lankan Conflict
      (pp. 42-52)
      Oivind Fuglerud

      Based upon fieldwork among Tamil refugees from Sri Lanka’s Northern Province living in Norway and among Muslims in Sri Lanka’s Eastern Province, I will in the following discuss migration and nonmigration as related to social practices and political imagery in Sri Lanka. Available data suggest that we find very different responses to the situation of war among the Tamil population in the Northern Province and the Muslim population in the Eastern Province.

      The questions of when and for what particular reasons people decide to flee from conflict situations have been of interest to refugee research since its inception (Kunz 1973)....

    • 4 Contested Refugee Status: Human Rights, Ethics and Social Responsibilities
      (pp. 53-66)
      Philomena Essed and Rianne Wesenbeek

      The question of who counts as ‘refugee’ in the enactment of international human rights is a continuous source of struggle among governments, state bureaucracies and critical movements (Lauren 1998). Individuals who leave behind home and country in the hope of surviving elsewhere and who subsequently knock on Dutch (or other European Union) doors may find that their primary agency, the definition of their own reality, throws dice in a political casino – the passing test. Eligibility for asylum depends on whether the home country situation is taken to produce refugees and whether the individual applicant has a plausible story to...

  7. Part II: Redefining Identities and Social Relationships

    • 5 A Life Project out of Turmoil: Displacement and Gender in Colombia
      (pp. 69-80)
      Donny Meertens

      The continuous escalation of the armed conflict among guerrillas, paramilitaries and the regular army in Colombia has caused an enormous humanitarian crisis. One of the most visible and disrupting effects of this crisis is the internal displacement of more than one and a half million people during the last two decades. This chapter explores the gender-differentiated ways in which women and men negotiate their identities during the process of displacement and the rebuilding of their daily lives and social networks. Women, in contrast to men, tend to gain some autonomy and visualise new horizons for their life projects in the...

    • 6 Permanent Refugees: Female Camp Inhabitants in Bihar
      (pp. 81-93)
      Kathinka Sinha-Kerkhoff

      This chapter concerns forced migrants who hitherto have been completely ignored by scholars. It focuses on (widowed) women now living in two so-called permanent liability camps in Bihar, a state known as one of the poorest, most populous and underdeveloped states of India. These women belong to a small section of the linguistic and historic minority of Bengali-speaking Hindus who migrated from East Pakistan to the State of Bihar in India during the aftermath of the ‘Partition’. At the juncture of the British withdrawal in 1947, British India was divided into India and (East and West) Pakistan. This division is...

    • 7 New Opportunities: Angry Young Men in a Tanzanian Refugee Camp
      (pp. 94-105)
      Simon Turner

      This chapter sets out to explore how life in a refugee camp has affected gender and age relations among Burundian refugees in Tanzania, and how refugees interpret camp life in terms of gender, age and class. How do young men manoeuvre in this new space, finding a place for themselves and making sense of their new setting?¹

      The chapter is based on a year’s fieldwork in Lukole Refugee Camp in northwest Tanzania. At the time of fieldwork, 1997–98, around 100,000 Burundian Hutu refugees lived in the camp. In conversations and group interviews the refugees gave the impression of living...

    • 8 Identities and the Sense of Belonging: Iranian Women Activists in Exile
      (pp. 106-118)
      Halleh Ghorashi

      The Iranian revolution of 1979 forced many people to leave their country. Among them were the Iranian women of this study, who as political activists within leftist organisations had to leave Iran when the Islamists assumed absolute power in 1981 and suppressed all opposition. These women became exiles throughout the world, including the Netherlands and the United States, where I conducted my research. My fieldwork, which took eight months in each country, was concentrated in Amsterdam in 1996 and Los Angeles in 1997. During that time, for some months I participated in and observed the Iranian communities in both countries...

  8. Part III: Discouraging Policies; Empowering Agency

    • 9 A Community Empowered? The Bosnia Project in the U.K.
      (pp. 121-134)
      Lynnette Kelly

      This chapter is about a British programme launched in the early 1990s for the resettlement of refugees from Bosnia Herzegovina. The problem addressed is how refugees have experienced the particular policy interventions implemented in the name of humanitarian aid. The purpose is to offer a critical view based on the presupposition that intentions meant to increase refugee empowerment are one thing, to operationalise these intentions effectively is quite another step.

      The outbreak of war in Bosnia Herzegovina in April 1992 produced the largest flow of refugees and displaced persons in Europe since the Second World War. Thousands of people fled...

    • 10 Refugee-generated Return: The Case of Guatemala
      (pp. 135-150)
      Anita Rapone and Charles Simpson

      Refugee populations constitute a set of unresolved problems. Given the desire of most refugees to return to their country of origin, the strain which refugees represent for less-developed countries of first asylum, and the increasing reluctance of the industrial world to accept refugees, the best available solution to the refugee crisis is repatriation (Coles 1989). But often the problems which generated a particular refugee flow – civil war, the destruction of infrastructure and the collapse of marketing systems, landlessness and deepening poverty, and government sponsored repression – are chronic and systemic, not episodic. Yet in the view of many refugees...

    • 11 Between Victim and Agent: Women’s Ambivalent Empowerment in Displacement
      (pp. 151-164)
      Darini Rajasingham-Senanayake

      Highlighting gross violations of women’s bodies and space in situations of conflict and displacement has been part of an important intervention by activists and women’s groups to promote women’s rights as human rights internationally. The various and systematic forms of violence that women experience at the hands of armed combatants, whether state armies or paramilitary personnel, in situations of armed conflict and displacement was extensively documented in the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, and other parts of Africa and Asia. This process culminated in the UN resolution that established rape as a war crime and saw the appointment of the first UN...

  9. Part IV: Challenging Dichotomies:: Relief versus Development

    • 12 Refugees between Relief and Development
      (pp. 167-178)
      Georg Frerks

      The last decade has seen an intensive debate on linking relief and development. Below the main arguments are reviewed. Which conceptual approach is most appropriate after considering the arguments pro and contra linking? Is that a model based on a continuum between relief and development or one which believes that the concept of discontinuity can better deal with the empirical, political and practical realities regarding refugees?

      The debate on linking relief and development started in the late 1980s with workshops, academic literature and policy discussions devoted to the subject. The magnitude of funds spent on an ever-increasing amount of complex...

    • 13 Rethinking the Relation between Relief and Development: ‘Villagisation’ in Rwanda
      (pp. 179-189)
      Dorothea Hilhorst and Mathijs van Leeuwen

      In the aftermath of the 1990–1994 war and genocide, Rwanda had to face the return of an estimated 2.5 million refugees in a four-year period. In order to address the housing need of these people, the Rwanda Government, with the support of international organisations, started a villagisation programme by the name ofImidugudu. From early 1997 on, this programme came to target the entire rural population: the government had decided that all scattered households in the countryside had to be regrouped in villages. Within four years, international organisations helped to build about 250 communities with 85,000 houses. Many more...

    • 14 Dilemmas of Humanitarian Aid: Supporting Internal Refugees in Sri Lanka
      (pp. 190-200)
      Joke Schrijvers

      With the increase of long-lasting intrastate conflicts, the extent and nature of forced migration have changed. Today, ‘internally displaced people’ by far outnumber refugees. According to conservative estimates, there are altogether 20–25 million internal refugees as against 12 million refugees (Hampton 1998: xv; UNHCR 2001). The 1951 UN convention does not protect internal refugees, but all agencies providing humanitarian aid in crisis situations are confronted with people who are uprooted within their own countries. More often than not these people belong to minority groups. The question of how to provide help to internal refugees in situations where sovereign governments...

  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 201-214)
  11. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 215-218)
  12. Index
    (pp. 219-238)