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Accepted Paper:

Violent dispossession, survival and social reproduction: Ethiopian refugees in Kenya  
Bina Fernandez (University of Melbourne) Handun Athukorala (Western Sydney University Online)

Paper short abstract:

Our paper analyses the transnational dimensions of social reproduction and argues that it is necessary to examine direct, inter-personal violence, as well as structural violence to understand the impact on Ethiopian refugees’ capacities for social reproduction, care and survival in Kenya.

Paper long abstract:

Drawing on empirical research on Ethiopian refugees in Nairobi, Kenya, this paper analyzes the gendered consequences of refugee dispossession for social reproduction. Feminist theorists have paid limited attention to the transnational dimensions of social reproduction; the social reproduction of citizens is usually the analytical focus, and the liminal condition of ‘non-citizen’ refugees and asylum seekers is often invisible. However, the non-citizen, marginalised status of refugees in host countries is fundamental to their unprotected exposure to violence and their relative lack of entitlements to social provisioning, undermining their capacity for social reproduction.

Our analysis is situated in an understanding of the Kenyan refugee regime as structured by colonial legacies of racialization and categorization and entangled with neo-colonial global political economy strategies of managing ‘surplus’ populations. We demonstrate the centrality of violent dispossession to refugees’ ongoing experience of inter-personal and structural violence, show how it constitutes an attack on their capacity for social reproduction, and identify the ‘feminization of refugee survival’ as an important gendered consequence. We argue that theorizing refugee social reproduction requires recognition of a double displacement of refugee capacity for social reproduction, both of which are transnational. The first transnational displacement occurs due to their dispossession from existing support infrastructure for social reproduction in their origin countries. A second and invisible transnational displacement is the refusal of global North countries to take on the anticipated welfare costs of refugee social reproduction. Transformative and re-generative approaches to refugee social reproduction would need to address both forms of displacement.

Panel P59
Violent states, survival work and caring citizens
  Session 1 Friday 30 June, 2023, -