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Linguistic Displacement, Spatial Exclusion

Topics: Ethnicity and Race, Women, Qualitative Research
Keywords: refugees, displacement, language politics, place & place politics
Session Type: Paper
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This paper addresses the cultural meanings and politics that shape language identity and spatial belonging in the everyday experiences of displaced women after resettlement in their new home country. Language is a defining yet underexplored element in the spatial struggle and construction of place. Drawing from over two years of qualitative data collection, including semi-structured interviews, oral stories, participant observations, and video ethnography with Vietnamese refugee women, this paper shows how displaced women navigate fraught linguistic terrains as they (re)construct their belonging in new sociospatial contexts.

This paper argues that geographic displacement is also linguistic displacement. Discussions about the linguistic dimension of displacement necessarily involve an examination of the uneven power relations that privilege certain languages at the expense of others. This linguistically embedded social cultural hierarchy is inscribed in places, conferring belonging to certain bodies while excluding others. Focusing on language as a pivotal lens to understand refugee displacement and placemaking provides insight into the ways the everyday practices of displaced women in (re)making home are spatially and culturally rooted, and structured by uneven power relations.

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