CRS Seminar: Enduring Displacement, Enduring Violence: Camps, Closure, and Exile In/After Return
This is a virtual event
February 17, 2023 09:00 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
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Guest Speaker: Yolanda Weima, PhD Candidate, Critical Human Geography, York University
“Return home” was the joint message by the Burundian and Tanzanian presidents in 2017, just two years after hundreds of thousands Burundians were recognized as refugees in neighbouring countries, and as more continued to seek refuge or asylum each month. In Tanzania, where refugees are subject to strict encampment, the vast majority of Burundian refugees had previously been refugees at least once before. Many returned to Tanzania less than three years after their prior return to Burundi, which, as camps were closed, had been framed as a “durable solution” to their displacement. This presentation explores the interrelated dynamics of enduring displacement, encampment, and closure, by drawing on life history research with Burundian refugees in two camps in Tanzania (2017-8), as well as semi-structured interviews with government and humanitarian staff, and ethnographic methods. This research highlights diverse prior trajectories of current Burundian refugees, both within and beyond camp boundaries, challenging there-and-back-again geographical imaginary of refuge management. It draws attention to an understudied but constitutive aspect of camps—their ultimate closures—by recounting refugees’ memories of the violent closure of Mtabila camp, as well as its fearful afterlives and present-presence. The violence of past camp closure is part of the violence of current encampment due to its evocation as a a disciplinary dispositif to “encourage” return, threatening and anticipating future violence. State and humanitarian practices “close” and harden space for those deemed “undesirable,” through forced encampment, camp closures, and coerced or forced return. In so doing, they produce and prolong displacement, in which varied spatio-temporalities of violence endure. Burundian refugees’ life histories thus trace the ways displacement endures, and is endured.
Yolanda Weima is a PhD candidate at in Critical Human Geography at York, and a graduate affiliate of the Centre for Refugee Studies. Her research was funded by a SSHRC doctoral scholarship to Honour Nelson Mandela, an Ontario Graduate Scholarship, and the York Fieldwork Cost Fund. She has co-organized special sections published Refuge, and Area, as well as having published in Progress in Human Geography.