Making home in Little Syria: Gendered geographies of refugee placemaking

Authors: Bronwyn Bragg*, University of British Columbia
Topics: Migration, Qualitative Methods, Gender
Keywords: Migration, refugees, feminism, place-making
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/9/2021
Start / End Time: 4:40 PM / 5:55 PM
Room: Virtual 42
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In 2015, the Canadian Government launched the Syrian Refugee Resettlement Initiative with the goal of resettling 25,000 Syrian refugees before the close of the year. The Resettlement Initiative prioritized women and families, and, in keeping with Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, prioritized those who were identified as experiencing heightened levels of vulnerability. This included large families, refugees with chronic health issues, and those with language or literacy barriers. In turn, these families were viewed by many has facing considerable barriers to ‘integration’ in Canadian society. Drawing on 18 months of ethnographic fieldwork in a mini-enclave of Syrian families in one Canadian city, this research explores the meaning-making practices and acts of “survivance” (survival and resistance) (Vizenor, 2008; Lê Espiritu & Duong, 2018) of refugee mothers. Rather than uncritically treating resettlement as a ‘durable solution’ to the problem of human displacement, I seek to understand what resettlement looks and feels like from the perspective of refugees themselves. I argue that while refugee women – positioned as hyper vulnerable, racialized and minoritized – do face forms of exclusion, they are also engaged in “improvised, fluid and alternative, homemaking, healing and survival strategies” (Lê Espiritu & Duong, 2018, p. 588). I explore the material, everyday, local and transnational acts of placemaking (Miraftab, 2016) in which refugee women are engaged, arguing for a more nuanced and critical account of refugee life.

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