The end(s) of flight? Temporariness, uncertainty and meaning in refugee life

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Speaker : Karen Fog Olwig (University of Copenhagen)

Title : The end(s) of flight? Temporariness, uncertainty and meaning in refugee life

Biography :

Karen Fog Olwig is professor emeritus at the Department of Anthropology, University of Copenhagen. Most of her research has focused on Caribbean migration with particular interest in the role of the family and inter-generational relations in processes of movement, settling and the sustaining of trans-national relations. During the past 15 years she has also studied migration within the context of Danish society, most recently the use of biometric technology in the verification of kin relations among refugees seeking family reunification.

Abstract :

Refugee studies have emphasized the precarious condition of those who are forced to flee from their ‘home’ country, yet unable to end their flight by gaining the right to settle in another country. Such concern has generated a critical scholarly narrative of refugees’ displacement in a situation of rightless ‘permanent temporariness’ characterized by uncertainty, stasis and meaninglessness. This analysis of Abdul’s story of his refugee life explores how he, by foregrounding his pursuit of specific objectives, or ends, defined by personal, social or existential concerns, highlighted achievements and endings that engendered a sense of purpose, agency and empowerment despite his failure to reach the final end to his unsettled state as a refugee. This underscores the importance of not being blinded by powerful teleological narratives preoccupied with a final end that never comes, but recognizing more specific, variegated ends and endings giving life direction and meaning even under difficult conditions.

  • When ?

Friday 5 February 2020 from 5:00 pm till 7:00 pm

  • Where ?

ULB - Campus du Solbosch

Institut de Sociologie (building S)

Room Janne - 15th floor

44 avenue Jeanne - 1050 Bruxelles