In the summer of 2015, UK public attitudes towards refugees shifted significantly in the face of a substantial and sustained increase in the number of people entering Europe from the Middle East and North Africa in search of refugee protection. Contrary to what might have been expected, given that the prevailing public mood on refugees had up to this point been, at best, guarded and wary, this change in attitudes was not only overwhelmingly positive, but it also forced the UK government into a dramatic and significant policy change. This article considers whether this shift in opinion represented a real sea change in public attitudes, or was a fleeting and unsustainable compassion spasm.
How Public Opinion Got Ahead of Government in Summer 2015 and Stayed There
This article provides an overview of Eleanor Rathbone’s commitment to the rescue and welfare of refugees, especially Jews, in and from Nazi-occupied Europe before and during the Second World War. The focus is on how she sought to champion their cause, while balancing her humanitarianism with the political imperatives of the day. Reference is made to her two groups, the Parliamentary Committee on Refugees and the National Committee for Rescue from Nazi Terror, both of which were used to bring pressure to bear on the government regarding their response to the refugees. Mention will also be made of some of her refugee publications, which variously proposed rescue schemes and sought to dispel the prevailing negative myths about Jews.
Lessons from Collaborative Research on Sanctuary in the Changing Times of Trump
Sara Vannini, Ricardo Gomez, Megan Carney and Katharyne Mitchell
We reflect on the experience of a cross-disciplinary collaboration between scholars in the fields of geography, anthropology, communication, and information studies, and suggest paths for future research on sanctuary and migration studies that are based on interdisciplinary approaches. After situating sanctuary in a wider theoretical, historical, and global context, we discuss the origins and contemporary expressions of sanctuary both within and beyond faith-based organizations. We include the role of collective action, personal stories, and artistic expressions as part of the new sanctuary movement, as well as the social and political forms of outrage that lead to rekindling protest and protection of undocumented immigrants, refugees, and other minorities and vulnerable populations. We conclude with a discussion on the urgency for interdisciplinary explorations of these kinds of new, contemporary manifestations of sanctuary, and suggest paths for further research to deepen the academic dialogue on the topic.
New Knowledge, Methodologies, and Practical Implications—A Panel Commentary
Khalid Koser, Pnina Werbner and Ien Ang
Khalid Koser: I will focus particularly on the notion of future research directions … from a refugee studies perspective. I think what today’s workshop has confirmed to me, yet again, is the strength of anthropology in this whole area of refugee studies. There is no doubt that anthropology is one of the leading disciplines in the study of refugees … Anthropology and law have got refugee studies wrapped up, while other disciplines have not really made enough of a contribution to this area.
Recreating Meaning in Transnational Context
Denise L. Spitzer
Migrating to another country is potentially fraught with both challenges and potential opportunities. This article examines ways in which mature Chilean, Chinese and Somali women who migrated to Canada deploy personal and communal resources to imbue shifting relations and novel spaces with new meanings. Through these activities, they create a place for themselves on Canadian soil while remaining linked to their homelands. I argue that the ability of immigrant and refugee women to reconstruct their lives—often under conditions of systemic inequalities—is evidence of their resilience, which consequently has a positive effect on health and well-being.
Organized Hypocrisy, Solidarity, and Mounting Protest
Tiziana Caponio and Teresa Cappiali
In 2016, migration issues in Italy became synonymous with the “refugee crisis.” Dramatic images of boat people, rescues, and the deaths of thousands of people in the Mediterranean Sea have catalyzed public attention. Examining the Italian government’s responses, we argue that the “refugee crisis” is the result of an “organized hypocrisy” aimed at containing, rather than managing, the crisis and at gaining access to international protection. Structuring the immigrant reception system on the opposition between humanitarian and economic migrants, Italian policies struggle to offer adequate responses to current mixed flows. Furthermore, this system often has a negative impact on local communities, where we find diversified responses that range from solidarity to opposition and, more recently, the emergence of a “reception market.” Additionally, our analysis suggests that the dysfunctional nature of the Italian reception system, combined with alarmist attitudes promulgated by the media, amplifies discomfort and contributes to an increase in public hostility toward immigrants.
From challenges to a research horizon
Leonardo Schiocchet, Sabine Bauer-Amin, Maria Six-Hohenbalken and Andre Gingrich
This article sets out to highlight present-day anthropological contributions to the field of forced migration and to the current debates on this topic in Europe through the experience of developing an international and interdisciplinary network for the study of refugees based in Vienna, Austria. To this end, this article engages with the grounding facts of the present Central European sociohistorical context and global political trends, grapples with shifting and questionable research funding landscapes such as the focus on “integration,” illustrates some of the main current research challenges, and highlights pressing topics. It concludes proposing a research horizon to counter present strong limitations on forced migration research and steer this research toward a more meaningful direction.
the effectiveness of a refugee simulation
Stacy Keogh George
This article describes the incorporation of a refugee simulation into an upper-division sociology course on globalisation at a liberal arts institution in the United States. The simulation is designed to inform students of the refugee process in the United States by inviting participants to immerse themselves in refugee experiences by adopting identities of actual refugee families as they complete four stages of the refugee application process. Student reactions to the refugee simulation suggest that it is an effective tool for demonstrating the complexities of the refugee experience in the United States and for evoking social empathy.
Citizenship and Belonging among Former Burundian Refugees in Tanzania
Patricia Daley, Ng’wanza Kamata and Leiyo Singo
This article examines the sense of insecurity experienced by former Burundian refugees following their acquisition of legal citizenship in Tanzania. Using the concept of ontological security, it explores the strategies devised by the new citizens and their former refugee selves to negotiate a normative and stable identity in Tanzania, a country with a postcolonial history of contested citizenship and depoliticized ethnicity. Our argument is that the fluidity of identity, when associated with mobility, is vilified by policy-makers and given insufficient attention in the literatures on ethnicity and refugees in Africa, yet is important for generating a sense of belonging and a meaningful life away from a troubled and violent past. This fluidity of identity offers a significant mechanism for belonging even after the acquisition of formal citizenship.
An Editorial Comment
On 4 July 2003, a one-day “Cultural Research and Refugee Studies” workshop was held in Sydney. Greg Gow and Amanda Wise organized the workshop, a cooperative venture between the cultural research centers of the University of Western Sydney and the Australian National University. It brought together a large group of researchers, practitioners, and community representatives to exchange ideas about cultural research among refugees and asylum seekers in Australia. The three articles that follow, by Gow, Wise, and Glazebrook, present a particular perspective on the methodology of studying and analyzing refugee behavior in Cultural Studies, stressing the significance of considering the emotive and affective aspects of their status and position. Wise’s material considers East Timorese refugees, many of whom now have residence in Australia, while Gow and Glazebrook examine more recent refugees and asylum seekers from Iraq and Central Afghanistan, respectively, many of whom still have uncertain futures. Comments from a panel discussion by Khalid Koser, Pnina Werbner, and Ien Ang complete this thematic section.