To answer these questions the author of this study has undertaken long-term fieldwork as a community worker in a Norwegian municipality. Refugees from Chile, Iran, Somalia, Bosnia and Vietnam were on occasions subjected to exclusionary and discriminatory practices. Nevertheless, restistance was seen in the form of a Somali women’s sewing circle, the organisation of a multi-cultural youth club, running refugee associations and printing their own language newspapers.
Moreover, in activities such as these, refugees addressed and came to terms with a limited number of shared existential concerns: morality, violence, sexuality, family reunion, belonging and not belonging to a second generation. Drawing upon these experiences a general theory of refugeeness is proposed. It states that the cultures refugees create in exile are the necessary prerequisite for self-recognition and survival.
Part II – Cultural, existential and corporeal experiences of refugeeness
Part II Cultural, existential and corporeal experiences of refugeeness 56 57 Chapter 2 Cultural ways of Being in exile Nombres, sitios, calles y calles, rostros, plazas, calles, estaciones, un parque, cuatros solos, manchas en la pared, alguien se peina, cuartos, lugares, calles, nombres, cuartos. Piedra de Sol, Octavio Paz. (names, places, streets and streets, faces, plazas, streets, stations, a park, single rooms, stains on the wall, someone combing her hair, rooms, places, streets, names, rooms) If the refugee is constituted by a number of discourses, on law, nation, mass, gender, class and race, then one discourse has been omitted from this list: culture. In exile, discourses of culture, not merely on the request and under the determination of the host population who desire to taste their exotic food, but also in refu- gee associations and when at home with family and friends, watch- ing movies imported from their homeland or just chatting consti- tute refugees. Through these discourses refugees experience their refugeeness as the founding and living of cultures of exile. Bhabha has suggested, ‘Culture as a strategy of survival is both transnational and translational.’ (Bhabha, 1994: 172) He was talk- ing of migrants traveling to the imperial metropolis from what were once colonies. But understanding culture as a form of sur- vival is equally applicable to refugees looking for ways of coping. (Fladstad, 1993) By transnational he meant that it was to do with displacement. Refugees are displaced to a new socio-spatial context, taking with them the culture of...
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