In this article, we argue that return in the aftermath of conflict-induced displacement is often undertaken in contexts of uncertainty. After years spent in war and displacement, people return to an unknown and uncertain present and future, shaped by ideal images of home and brutal memories of conflict. Based on ethnographic fieldwork among South Sudanese refugees in Kenya and Canada and returnees in South Sudan, we analyze the 'return home' strategies, motivations, and experiences of returnee men. We suggest that uncertainty often transforms the present and the future of returning populations and the societies to which they return. Our research shows that in their attempts to minimize their wartime and displacement uncertainties, returnee men transform, negotiate, and reconstruct national, ethnic, and gender identities in a variety of ways, depending on their age and experiences in exile.
Translocal Coping with Precariousness and Uncertainty among Returnee Men in South Sudan
Katarzyna Grabska and Martha Fanjoy
Flight and Exile—Uncertainty in the Context of Conflict-Induced Displacement
Cindy Horst and Katarzyna Grabska
This introduction addresses the ways in which flight and exile create particular types of uncertainty, including both radical and protracted, in people's lives. We argue that the concept of uncertainty, in its meaning of imperfect knowledge and the unpredictability of the future, is central to studies that theorize conflict-induced displacement, transit, and refugeeness. We start with an exploration of the spatial and temporal aspects of uncertainty in situations of displacement, and within that we discuss how uncertainty functions as a governing mechanism. We then analyze the ways that refugees and those internally displaced navigate situations of radical and protracted uncertainty. This article and those that follow in this special issue suggest that in our analysis of conflict-induced displacement, we must understand uncertainty rather than certainty as the norm.