Mundane Political Agency in Familial Refugee Lives

Authors: Kirsi Kallio*, University Of Tampere
Topics: Migration, Political Geography, Social Theory
Keywords: refugeeness, family, migration, political agency, subjectivity
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/14/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Mid-City, Sheraton, 8th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper takes up the question of how mundane political agency is acquired and practiced by refugee families, with reference to how it is conceived and governed by the migration regime and the humanitarian aid system involving states, international organizations and local actors. In precarious migratory processes and situations, the significance of familial relations often grows. The affective relationships and emotional bonds between family members, of kith and kin, encompass important resources that individuals alone could not possess. For some people certain familial relations are part of the problematized life situation, challenging rather than reinforcing their personal agency, which emphasizes the import of other close relations. These diversified familialities are not adequately recognized by the migration regime or in humanitarian aid practices. The ways in which families are encountered often lies in stark contrast with international agreements and national policies emphasizing the importance of and people’s right to family. The depreciation of familial relations and their active maintenance enforces subordination in the spaces of refuge and weakens people’s opportunities to be politically present in their challenging life situations. I will discuss familial relationships in one refugee context, in the transnational lives of young male refugees’ in Finland, drawing from interviews with Iraqi, Afghan and Somali refugees. I have found their emotional experiences and affective practices irreducible to personal agencies yet not existing beyond subjective stances. I propose that a better identification of refugees’ mundane familial political agencies would not only be righteous, but also beneficial to the humanitarian aid system.

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