Making, Remaking, and Unmaking ‘Refugees’

Type: Paper
Sponsor Groups:
Poster #:
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 1:20 PM / 3:00 PM (MDT)
Room: Jackson, Marriott, 5th Floor
Organizers: Prem Kumar Rajaram, Celine Cantat
Chairs: Celine Cantat


‘Refugees’ are often seen in policy, academic and popular circles as discrete entities, distinct from other ‘groups’ and reducible to by their experiences of persecution and (cross-border) movement. This is to the detriment of studying the social relations and spatial structures that make, remake and even unmake ‘refugees’.

‘Refugees’ are, over and over again, produced as specific subjects - of humanitarian intervention, securitisation and so on. These representations invisibilise this process of production and the series of negotiations with and incorporations into social relations and spatial structures that underpin them. In particular, the relation between these representations and the sovereign act of production - where refugees are named by state authorities, ‘interpellated’ in Althusser’s sense - requires examination. Similarly, the way in which people called refugees are involved in these subject making processes, and the way their involvement is marginalised, also call for investigation.

These relational processes of subject-making are manifold. They range from care and hospitality to capitalist work relations to political activism by or on behalf or with ‘refugees’. In spite of representations of refugees as isolated from the broader social and political sphere, these various processes appear to embed refugees in a multiplicity of subject positions, social relations and power structures. Such relations are also defined by the spatial structures within which they occur. For example, struggles around the right to the commons and to the city involving refugees lead to political acts such as occupations and mobilisation with other marginal subjects in society. These may constitute practices of citizenship by those formally denied that status. Such place-based struggles shape complex subject positions premised on multiple solidarities, connections and animosities.

The aim of this panel is to call into question the definitions of ‘refugees’ as self-evident entities. Presenters will explore empirical, historical and theoretical issues and questions that examine how people called refugees enter into social relations and challenge subject positions ascribed to them and shed light on the complex processes involved in making, remaking and unmaking ‘refugees’.


Type Details Minutes Start Time
Presenter Prem Kumar Rajaram*, Central European University, Race, Class and the Making of 'Refugees' 20 1:20 PM
Presenter Celine Cantat*, Central European University, Remaking the refugee along the Balkan route: exclusion, struggles, resistance 20 1:40 PM
Presenter Michael Collyer*, University of Sussex, Regular refugees: abjection, humanitarianism and autonomy in Morocco’s regularisation campaigns 20 2:00 PM
Discussant Peter Nyers McMaster University 20 2:20 PM
Presenter Lily Herbert*, University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill, “Foreign infiltration”: Construction of the refugee as threat in contemporary German mass and social media 20 2:40 PM

To access contact information login