Accepted Paper:

Beyond the category of refugees: mobility and prospects for Karen post-refugee futures in the Thailand-Myanmar borderlands  

Author:

Prasert Rangkla (Thammasat University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores limitations of categorizing Burma-origin displaced persons as refugees in a northwestern Thai borderland. It argues that the legally prescribed category of refugees should integrate mobile strategies into the discussion of refugees’ future prospects and the homeland reconstruction.

Paper long abstract:

This paper explores limitations of categorizing Burma-origin displaced persons as refugees in a northwestern Thai borderland. Tens of thousands of people from eastern Burma fled civil wars and conflict-induced difficulties into Thailand. A number of them have considerably contested the humanitarian assistance, provided along the category, because they make a living beyond the notion of weakened acquiescent refugees. To understand Karen refugees' practical strategies for struggling with their vulnerable situations, this article investigates their further trajectory of mobility without waiting for the formalist durable refugee solutions. Based on ethnographic fieldwork in the Thailand-Burma borderlands, it raises a question as to what extent their moving propensity and capacity for transnational engagement can constitute resources for resilience in a post-conflict setting. I would argue that there is a need for paradigmatic shifts to challenge the legally prescribed category of refugees, as well as to integrate mobile strategies into the discussion of refugees' future prospects and the reconstruction of their trouble-ridden homeland.

Panel P069
Moving people: anthropologists adopting, interrogating and refuting governmental categorisations (ANTHROMOB)