Feminist Perspectives on Refugee and Asylum-Seeker Spaces and Subjectivities II

Type: Virtual Paper
Theme: Ethnonationalism and Exclusion Around the World
Sponsor Groups: Feminist Geographies Specialty Group, Political Geography Specialty Group
Poster #:
Day: 4/9/2021
Start / End Time: 4:40 PM / 5:55 PM (PDT)
Room: Virtual 42
Organizers: Banu Gokariksel, Suad Jabr
Chairs: Nathan Swanson


According to UNHCR, the total number of forcibly displaced people around the world reached its highest level in 2018 with more than 70.8 million people, including 30 million refugees and asylum-seekers. While waiting to establish permanent lives, the vast majority of displaced people around the world are living in limbo and under constant risk of discrimination, racism, and instrumentalization by the host-country governments and political groups. As witnessed in the cases of Syrians and Central Americans, these conditions sometimes force thousands of people to take dangerous journeys seeking asylum in European countries or the United States, where they expect to find safety and better living conditions and rights.

Feminist scholarship on displaced people, refugees, and asylum seekers has noted that much of the scholarship in refugee studies barely touches on the experiences of individual refugees, and rarely considers displaced people’s everyday activities, relations and intimacies, as well as struggles of livelihood, adaptation, and integration. Focusing on everyday practices, subjectivities, and embodied experiences of displacement, feminist geographers have analyzed the intimate cartographies of border crossing experiences (Kelly, 2015), genderization of asylum practices (Hyndman & Giles, 2011), and the liminal sites where sovereign power of nation-states operates over asylum-seekers and undocumented migrant bodies (Mountz, 2011). Recent work has drawn attention to the limitations of viewing refugees as powerless victims and instead consider the knowledge that refugees build and the power that they exercise through their crossing of multiple borders and navigation of complex national and international legal systems and institutions (Kallio, Häkli, & Pascucci, 2019; Kallio & Häkli, 2019). Contrary to their presumed passivity, people with refugee backgrounds constantly organize networks, shape, negotiate, and challenge the borders, walls, and fences of refugee camps or spaces of resettlement (De Genova, 2017; Jacobsen, 2006; Karam et al. 2017; Marshall, 2013; Sanyal, 2014). Feminist perspectives have also drawn attention to gendered, class, ethnic and religious differences in refugee experience and how overlooking these differences, for example, in the design of refugee spaces or integration programs, can put individuals at risk or exacerbate their vulnerability (Dilger & Dohrn, 2016).

The papers examine any historical or geographical context concerning displaced people, refugees, and asylum-seekers from a feminist geographical perspective that emphasizes the everyday and intimate remaking of subjects and spaces. In organizing this session, we aim to build on and develop critical feminist questions and approaches to migration and displacement broadly.


Type Details Minutes Start Time
Presenter Christopher Courtheyn*, Boise State University, Abandoning the Revolution? Gender, Race, Socialism, and South-South Migration in South America 15 4:40 PM
Presenter Adam Saltsman*, Worcester State University, Mediating Conflict, Making Meaning: Gender, Violence, and Order in the Thai-Burmese Borderlands 15 4:55 PM
Presenter Bronwyn Bragg*, University of British Columbia, Making home in Little Syria: Gendered geographies of refugee placemaking 15 5:10 PM
Discussant Nathan Swanson Purdue University 15 5:25 PM
Presenter Shae Frydenlund*, University of Pennsylvania, Refugee labor and capitalist frontier-making in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 15 5:40 PM

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