The Anthropology of Globalization: Cultural Anthropology Enters the 21st Century

By Ted C. Lewellen | Go to book overview
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Chapter 9

Refugees: The Anthropology of Forced Migration

From the 1950s to the 1970s, as in the 1980s and 1990s, the movement of people (and the control of the movement of peoples) has been inescapably global, and the political, social, and ethical responsibility for it must therefore also be global.

Liisa Malkki 1

Habari ya mihangaiko? (How are your anxieties?)

Common greeting of Burundi refugees in Tanzania 2

The 20th century might deservedly be called the Age of Refugees; it is estimated that there have been 140 million people uprooted by war and the threat of political violence this century. In 1994 alone, there were 23 million refugees. Yet the systematic anthropological study of refugees is relatively recent.

The term “refugee” originally referred to French Protestants who fled religious oppression at the end of the 17th century. Present usage dates to people displaced during World War I. Although the League of Nations took responsibility for protecting and assisting refugees, following World War II, refugees were reclassified as a military problem and placed under the jurisdiction of the Displaced Persons Branch of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force. Accordingly, the basic structure of refugee settlement was modeled after a military camp of tents or barracks. Principal elements of international refugee law and policy emerged from this postwar period, including perception of the refugee camp as a center where power

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