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Repossession

Material Absences, Affective Presences, and the Life-Resumption Labors of Bosnians in Britain

Eleanor Ryan-Saha

Reflecting on ethnographic research undertaken in 2010–2011, I conceive of dispossession as fundamental to the individual and social experience of displacement for Bosnian former refugees residing in Britain. In this context, I pluck what I term 'repossession' from among the myriad strategies and practices that constitute life resumption after refugee displacement. Repossession is achieved through dynamic interplay between the affective influence of new material absences and presences. At the same time, it includes the reflexive construction of new rhetorical stances regarding materialism. I examine how the attainment of 'materially qualified life' through repossession contributes both to personal recovery and to the formation and consolidation of the British Bosnian diaspora. In this way, repossession achieves material certainty in the present, subsequent to the uncertainty of the past dispossession event.