Refugees in a Space of Agency - Development Studies Association

Refugees in a Space of Agency:
Asserting Citizenship Despite Control
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Refugee Policies in Tanzania
 Tanzania: largest refugee population in Africa
 In this study: Burundian refugees
 Nyerere and ujamaa policies 1973
 Open-door policy
 Increasing restrictiveness
 Refugee Act of 1998
 Surprising move since 2007:
 Grant citizenship to >160,000 Burundian refugees on a
collective basis, relocation and settlement is supposed to be
closed; 20% of refugees repatriated in 2008/09
Research Question and Design
To what extent is Ulyankulu settlement a
“space of agency“?
 Ethnography: one year field work in Ulyankulu
settlement in Tanzania
Participant observation
Participant observation
Public places: Market, Churches, Schools, Court
Market Place, Ulyankulu settlement, Tanzania Photo: Janna Miletzki 06/2012
 Interviews
 Government officials
 Various levels
 International organisations Dar es Salaam/Ulyankulu
 Refugees
 1st and 2nd generation
 Local Tanzanian population In and around Ulyankulu
UNHCR, Ulyankulu settlement, Tanzania
Photo: Janna Miletzki 06/2012
Settlement Commander’s office , Ulyankulu settlement, Tanzania
Photo: Janna Miletzki 06/2012
Theory (1)
The Camp as a Space of Control
State control in organised rural refugee settlements is exerted
spatially, legally, and temporally
Spatially, the settlement area is made legible and rational (Scott 1998)
- The form is understandable for outsiders by using a grid structure
- Grouping people of the same nationality together (Armstrong 1990)
Legally, in terms of exclusion from citizenship: no voting rights, no freedom
of movement, no right to work.
Temporally, the state makes refugees wait for its decisions
“Waiting is one of the (…) ways of experiencing the effect of power, and the
link between time and power” (Bourdieu 2000)
Theory (2)
The Camp as a Space of Agency
 Agency can be used abiding by the rule of law or by
subverting it
 Agency can be destructive: e.g. Refugee militarism (Stein
and Clark 1990)
 Agency can also be constructive: e.g. Building houses
(Sanyal 2011; Ramadan 2013)
 Agency to assert citizenship and belonging
 An agent, as consistent with practice theory, is here seen
as a body/mind, who “carries” and “carries out” social
practices, which make up the social world (Reckwitz
Formal Legal and Spatial Control
 Freedom of Movement:
 Refugees to live in designated areas (Refugee Act of 1998)
 Political Rights:
 Voting, putting oneself forward as a candidate, assembling for
political purposes (refugees, as non-citizens are not included in
the rights spelled out by the Constitution)
 Working:
 Small income generating activities (National Refugee Policy of
 Material control:
 Animals slaughtered, vehicles taken (Refugee Act of 1998);
 Owning permanent houses in the settlement
Contradictory Security Concerns
as Justification
 Central Government:
General links to Burundi are feared;
Better to relocate refugees in order to integrate them and diffuse the
security threat
“Yes, there are other reasons [for the relocation], like security
concerns. It is easy for them to go back to Burundi and to be
influenced by other relatives. As Burundians they like to go to
Burundi. Now they are Tanzanians, there is no need to go back to
 Regional Commission:
Fear of armed robbery;
Not willing to integrate refugees
“Tabora has become quite unsafe. When the refugees came from
Rwanda and Burundi, they came with weapons. We don’t have a civil
war here. […] We are fed up with them.”
 Contradictions delay decisions
Whose Security?
National versus Human Security
Source: Paris 2001
Whose Security?
National versus Human Security
Source: Paris 2001
Control as a Threat to Human Security
 Risking to go to prison when outside of the
settlement without a permit
 Refugees sometimes need to go without a permit to
seek health treatment or to work
 endangering health and economic security
 Local Tanzanians arrested, who employ refugees:
“I could not succeed to finish [my studies] because my father
was taken to prison because he employed Hutus on his farm
The Camp as a Space of Agency
Formally Asserting Citizenship
Belonging: First Generation
 “I applied because my whole education I did here; I know nothing
about Burundi; I was very young when I came here”
 “I was living here [in Ulyankulu/Tanzania] very well; there is no
peace there [in Burundi]”
Belonging: Second Generation
 Being born in Tanzania
 “I would be happy [to be a Tanzanian]. When you finish Form 4,
your certificate shows that you are a Burundian; if people see that
you are a Hutu, they will not employ you outside of the settlement
and if possible, they will send you back to the settlement”
 Belonging and practical advantages as reasons to apply for
The Camp as a Space of Agency
Informally Asserting Citizenship
3) They hide their refugee status, ethnicity and
Burundian nationality
 Language
“My parents live close to the Sukumaland, so I learned it myself by
talking to them. In church in Kashishi [next to Ulyankulu], we were
praying and preaching in Kisukuma – even the bible was in
 Ethnicity
Claiming a Tanzanian ethnicity
 Documentation
No documentation of legal status
 Obtaining documentation such as voting IDs:
“(I got it) In Sikonge, last year. (…) I said that I am from Sikonge. My
aunt married there; I went there to visit her”
Interdisciplinary research:
 Methods from human geography, theoretical insights from geography, sociology and
citizenship studies help to answer the research question
 Findings:
 Show how state control is expressed in security narratives, which are sometimes in
tension and delay decisions
 State control endangers refugees’ human security
 Refugees themselves use their agency, by abiding by the law, for example to obtain
citizenship formally; but when it is detrimental to live the lives they want to live, they
break the law to overcome control in order to assert their citizenship informally
 The camp is a hybrid space, encompassing both control and agency; agency is seen as a
threat and thus control is increased
 Contribution:
 creating a new cosmos of understanding protracted rural refugee situations, by trying
to understand the interplay between control and agency
 Concluding Ideas:
 Refugees are in effect, creating their own solution to the problem of a “protracted
refugee solution”
Agamben, G. (2005) State of Exception, Chicago: University of Chicago Press
Armstrong, Allen (1990) Evolving approaches to planning and
management of refugee
settlements: The Tanzanian experience,
Ekistics 342 May/June and 343 July/August
Bourdieu, P. (2000) Pascalian Meditations. Stanford, CA: Stanford
University Press.
Paris, Roland (2001) Human Security: Paradigm Shift or Hot Air? International Security, 26(2): 87102
Ramadan, A. (2013) Spatialising the refugee camp, Transactions of the Institute of British
Geographers, 38: 65-77
Reckwitz, … (2002 ) Toward a Theory of Social Practice – A Development in Culturalist Theorizing,
European Journal of Social Theory 5(2): 243-263
Sanyal, R. (2011). Squatting in Camps: Building and Insurgency in Spaces of Refuge. Urban Studies:
an international journal for research in urban studies, 48 (5).
Scott, James C. (1998) Seeing like a State, New Haven and London: Yale
University Press
Stein, Barry N. and Lance Clark (1990) Refugee Integration and Older Refugee Settlements in Africa,
paper presented at the 1990 meeting of the American Anthropolical Association, New Orleans
28 November 1990,
UNHCR (2012) Ulyankulu Briefing Note, Dar es Salaam
Thank you for your attention!
Ulyankulu Settlement, Photo: Janna Miletzki 08/2012

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