Accepted paper:

Writing the history of Uganda's Nakivale Refugee Settlement


Jolien Tegenbos (Ghent University)

Paper short abstract:

This presentation is concerned with the creation of a refugee camp history. I present in this paper my ongoing research on conflict mobilities, refugee and camp histories with a focus on Uganda's Nakivale Refugee Settlement, established as a refuge in 1958.

Paper long abstract:

What are the meanings, values and dangers of writing history in/for a place characterized by a permanent temporariness; by many as "nothingness"; where people aim to hide a variety of activities, trajectories, personal histories, and identities; and where many are found to be preoccupied with forgetting rather than remembering? How would the writing of such a history take shape? For whom would it be written and which ethics would be involved in such a process? By looking into refugee and camp histories, circular return migration and its temporalities, I try to understand how refugee mobility is connected to a broader migration history of Central-East Africa. Further, as camps are slowly growing their own histories through protracted existence, their interplay with the (inter)national polities beyond its boundaries changes. This paper looks at a world that connects many refugee-settings in countries across Central-East Africa, but of which most people were ignorant of its particularities until they entered the reception centers. At the same time however, refugee trajectories also indicate that it is a world out of which many people seem not to be able to get out (easily). In addition, the in many ways hidden and protracted character of refugee camps leaves internal dynamics (entangled with national, regional, international dynamics) generating complex mobilities, realities and histories invisible. This paper asks what meanings, values and dangers could lie in recognizing or ignoring these histories.

panel His15
Refugee camps in African history