“Who Am I This Time?”: Negotiation of Refugee Identity During Transit, 1943-1945

Authors: Caitlin Flanagan*, Pennsylvania State University
Topics: Migration, Historical Geography, Immigration/Transnationalism
Keywords: refugee, identity, historical geography
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/7/2021
Start / End Time: 9:35 AM / 10:50 AM
Room: Virtual 10
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

The main sources for those studying refugee journeys consist of narrative accounts which often overlook details that ground the experience in space and time. This research uses a unique family archive from the Renko family of structured records of their refugee journey over two years, 1943-1945, from the former Soviet Union to Germany. Using the detailed records, complemented with archival research and family interviews, this paper explores where, why, and when the Renko family changed themselves. There are two main components of this research: place-based identity transition and bottom-up identity creation. This research demonstrates how a refugee family used their flexible identity as an to shift allegiances, protect themselves, and exploit the systems in place to gain capital at different times and in different places. Additionally, this paper fills a gap in research on refugee journeys and refutes the conception of a refugee identity being created from the top down by institutions creating identities for refugees and removing personal agency.

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