Accepted paper:

Reconsidering 'refuge': imaginaries and realities of liveable lives between asylum and resettlement

Author:

Georgina Ramsay (University of Delaware )

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores how forced migration mobilities can rupture existential imaginaries of refuge. I show how powers of humanitarian intervention, political governance, and cosmology both inspire and constrain horizons of possibility for Congolese refugees in asylum in Uganda and resettlement in Australia.

Paper long abstract:

Is 'refuge' possible? In this paper, I draw on ethnographic fieldwork I conducted with women from the Democratic Republic of Congo in contrasting settings of urban asylum in Uganda and refugee resettlement in Australia to explore how the possibility of 'refuge' is imagined in contexts of asylum, and—ostensibly—lived in settings of resettlement. I consider how their pursuit of liveable lives through mobilities of forced migration cannot be reduced to static frameworks of 'refuge' such as those proposed by the UNHCR, in which resettlement is designated as a 'durable solution' to displacement; and which thereby presuppose the possibility of a good life for refugees who are resettled. For Congolese women, the experience of 'refuge' is existential, and the movement towards a good, or simply liveable, existence depends on a capacity to regenerate life through acts of cultivating gardens, sharing food, and bearing children. Paradoxically, this imperative to regenerate life is not automatically fulfilled upon resettlement in Australia, where forms of governance—including migration restrictions on family composition and child welfare policies that threaten the connectedness between mother and child—disrupt, and at times make impossible, the capacity to experience existential viability. Focusing on how physical mobilities of forced migration can rupture existential imaginaries of 'refuge,' I show how intersecting and often contesting powers of humanitarian intervention, political governance, and cosmology serve both to inspire and constrain horizons of possibility for refugees.

panel P121
Mobility, power and possibility: the search for liveable lives [ANTHROMOB]