Paper short abstract:
This paper explores the tensions that emerge in the competing and complementary projects of neoliberalism encountered across scales in the Saharawi refugee camp, focusing on how credit and markets have altered the perception of permanent displacement for some and liberation for others.
Paper long abstract:
Displaced for forty years, Saharawi refugees and their political leadership have developed various decolonization strategies that aim to end Morocco's presence in Western Sahara. Drawing on fieldwork in the self-governed Saharawi refugee camp in Algeria, this paper looks to the neoliberal governing strategies that the Saharawi government leadership emphasizes as essential to demonstrating their fitness for sovereignty. However, this interpretation of neoliberalism as a sovereign ideal also has ramifications for its citizen-refugees who point to neoliberal practices and responsibilities as the death of decolonization. This paper highlights how the temporality of neoliberal reforms in the refugee camp generate widely different interpretations across actors. This paper explores the tensions that emerge in the competing and complementary projects of neoliberalism encountered across scales in the Saharawi refugee camp, focusing on how credit and "open markets" have altered the perception of permanent displacement for some and liberation for others. Saharawi leaders point to the governance of the refugee camp as necessary preparation for sovereignty and evidence of the state's capabilities to smoothly transition into a fully-fledged sovereign state that will operate within norms and abide by "best practices" in the international community. But what are "best practices" and what does it mean to be a "good" state? How might these be performed as part of a decolonization movement? How does the obligation and desire to build a sovereign, independent future coexist alongside struggles for a financially secure existence within the refugee camps?