Engendering Forced Migration: Theory and Practice

Engendering Forced Migration: Theory and Practice

Engendering Forced Migration: Theory and Practice

Engendering Forced Migration: Theory and Practice

Synopsis

As the millennium approaches, war, political oppression, desperate poverty, environmental degradation and disasters are increasing the world's millions of forced immigrants. This text provides gendered case studies from around the world.

Excerpt

As in the evolution of many academic domains devoted to the study of phenomena that are also significant social issues, the study of forced migration initially was powerfully influenced by representations of refugees and flight driving from that social issues discourse. Research consequently focused on particular kinds of political refugees, not environmentally forced migrants and certainly not so-called 'economic migrants'. Conceptually, 'refugee' in most academic research up to the mid-1980s was essentially what it was in folk discourse, save in legal studies. The formative days of refugee studies was also characterized by a concentration on the comparatively short period when refugees attract the public eye through flight and acute trauma, and on the comparatively few who secured resettlement in rich countries. There was little sustained interest in the chronic national, international, and environmental forces generating such movements of people, or in empirical or theoretical parallels between those deemed political refugees crossing international borders and others. Researchers often nonproblematically used highly stereotypic social issues and bureaucratically generated representations of 'the' culture, experiences, and goals of refugees that would never have been acceptable in contemporary ethnographic treatments of people in source countries.

Even fifteen years ago, gender rarely surfaced in folk representations and practice concerning forced migrants. Refugees were sometimes spoken of as women, men, or children, but typically either in passing, in relation to idealized, traditional 'family' life and roles, or in regard to programs aimed specifically at family unification, women's health, or employment. 'Generic' employment and health programs were 'for everybody' and therefore were not usually seen as gendered. The 1951 UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and subsequent elaborations that most governments used to determine formal refugee status then gave no support for gender as a factor in . . .

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