University of London Institute in Paris

9-11 rue de Constantine
75007 Paris

This panel will reflect on research conducted by Anne-Sophie Bentz and Glenda Santana de Andrade on Sri Lankan Tamils in India and Syrian refugees in Turkish and Jordanian cities. The panel will explore how the agency of refugees – activities, resistances, and acts through which they create a collective voice – transforms the ideas of refugehood and citizenship.

Speakers and abstracts

This event will be chaired by Professor Engin Isin.

“Reflections on Refugeehood and Citizenship among Sri Lankan Tamils in India,” Anne-Sophie Bentz, CESSMA, Université Paris Diderot

This presentation will explore the experience of exile for different groups of Sri Lankan Tamils in India. Based on fieldwork conducted between 2010 and 2015 in and around Keezhputhupattu camp (Tamil Nadu), in Ceylon Quarter (Pondicherry), and in Chennai, we will discuss a range of cases that, despite their variety, seem to come together around issues of political subjectivity. From camp refugees who long to become Indian citizens; to repatriates who are treated as migrants and who, as a result, consider themselves ‘native refugees’ and are ready to give up an unwanted Indian citizenship; to refugees who looked down on life in refugee camps and settled in the city instead, leaving both refugeehood and citizenship behind, all the Sri Lankan Tamils whom we met in Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry share life stories of marginalisation and discrimination. We will show that refugeehood and citizenship acquire different meanings through their discourse and agency in producing in-between spaces.

“The agency of Refugees: The case of Syrians in Turkish and Jordanian cities”, Glenda Santana de Andrade, CRESPPA-GTM, Université Paris 8.

This presentation will explore how refugees develop individual or collective strategies under constraint. Based on a series of semi-structured interviews with Syrians in Turkey and Jordan, which were conducted in several cities, with different profiles, in 2016 and 2017, we will explore the social practices and institutional frameworks leading refugees to develop these actions. We will discuss the agency of refugees without neglecting the structures and mechanisms shaping their actions. The use of the word agency intends to break with the postulate of a passive refugee, who is only a subject of humanitarian aid and who submit themselves to a host State as a guest, undesired, without resisting or transforming their exilic lives. We will also question the term refugee itself, while simultaneously debating the presuppositions of the state, such as borders and citizenship.

Agenda and Registration

6-8 PM: introductions, presentations, and Q&A