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Accepted Paper:

Past, Present and Future Selves: Hope, Rupture, and Transformation in Asylum Seekers’ Experience of Flight  
Jagat Sohail (Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology)

Paper short abstract:

This paper is based on two young Asylum seekers in Berlin who narrate radical contrasts in their internal experiences of self before and after arriving in Europe. Examining the nature of their relationship to previous and future selves, I unpack the promises of transformation built into flight.

Paper long abstract:

What kind of hope is scripted into exile? This paper looks to unpack the promises of transformation built into experiences of flight. I follow the stories of two young, male, asylum seekers from Syria and Egypt who arrived in Berlin between 2015 and 2016. Both narrate radical contrasts in their internal experiences of selfhood before and after their journey to Europe. Both locate a kind of “split” in their conceptions of self, and relate to their past selves with a mixture of ambivalence, distance, and even disavowal. Yet where one seems to have navigated this transformation with a commitment to a new kind of rooted belonging, along with a strong commitment to his ‘present self’, the other restlessly speaks of leaving his life in Germany behind for newer pastures, insisting that radically different ‘future selves’ might be waiting for him elsewhere. I show how flight becomes a compelling script through which promises of futurity might be realised. Yet simultaneously, these investments come at the cost of ruptures and discontinuities in internal experiences of selfhood and environment. Together, these two stories, in a sense archetypal of the settled and unsettled poles of migrant experience, help examine the unique self-oriented aspects of the experience of flight, particularly in the lives of young men. I show how the potential of flight to transform - and not just provide security - is crucial to understanding the imaginaries of forced migration, arguing that the search for the ‘good self’ underpins these journeys in crucial ways.

Panel P085b
Prepackaged hopes and ready-made paths of transformation II
  Session 1 Tuesday 26 July, 2022, -