Accepted Paper:

Of still time and precarious existence: young Afghani asylum seekers transiting Greece  


Eleni Bolieraki (EHESS)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines the complex conceptions of time and space in the uncertain frame of transit, through the case study of young Afghani asylum seekers transiting Greece and attempting to reconstruct their identity between imagination and agency.

Paper long abstract:

This paper presents a case study of young Afghani asylum seekers temporarily residing in Thessaloniki, Northern Greece. It is an attempt to elucidate the process of reconstructing the Self after the traumatic experiences of exile while being bound in time and space.

On hold for indefinite periods of time while transiting inevitably Greece in their passage from Asia to Europe, young Afghani asylum seekers find a refuge in memory, even though their narratives consist mostly of tragic events. This is not so much an idealisation of the past, as a mental "way out" of a foreign and unknown place, where they find no points of reference and nothing familiar to hang on from.

Precariousness and other everyday challenges in this host country (such as social exclusion, discrimination and stigmatisation) add up to form strategies of self-affirmation and empowerment while wavering between invisibility and visibility in everyday life. Alongside with the negotiation of new identities, this social group struggles with real and imaginary boundaries that affect both their everyday practices and their social interactions, marking not only their trajectories in this particular city, but their everyday choices, their coalitions and their self-representation tactics as well.

Through ethnographic examples and analysis, we will try to discern the complex interactions between vulnerability, precariousness and determined struggle for identity beyond borders, in a harsh reality where time and space have to be re-evaluated.

Panel Mig005
Refugee visions and realities: interpreting time with people on the move