Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Orientalism and Congolese Unaccompanied Refugee Minors in the Global North

Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Orientalism and Congolese Unaccompanied Refugee Minors in the Global North

Article excerpt

Identifying the salient needs of displaced and parentless refugee children who resettle to the Global North is an arduous task. War-affected, unaccompanied refugee minors are an exceptionally vulnerable group. They must navigate both life in a new country and past experiences of armed conflict without the support of their parents and, often times, families (Derluyn & Broekaert, 2008). The resettlement process from a refugee camp to life in an industrialized country appears steeped in colonial notions of oppression, marginalization, and subjugation, which are routinely disregarded. The historical and unjust constructions of race and power between the industrialized Global North and the less economically advanced Global South are pertinent to the resettling experiences of (DRC) Congolese unaccompanied refugee minors living in the Global North. In order to accurately conceptualize the experiences of Congolese unaccompanied refugee minors (URMs) living in the Global North, it is essential to employ particular components of (Post)Colonial Theory when researching or working with this population. Since "Post-Colonial Theory" is a controversial term (Shohat, 1992), which presupposes that colonialism has ended, I have chosen to place the word "post" in parenthesis, considering colonialism persists. There is value in reading the URM context in tandem with (P)CT because it analyzes the lasting detrimental and oppressive effects of colonialism and how they directly impact the resettlement process for Congolese URMs.

Due to the complexity of (P)CT, this paper will not attempt to explore the various components of this dynamic theory. Instead, it will draw upon "Orientalism," a major theme of (P)CT, and how it specifically relates to Congolese URMs resettled in the Global North.

To address the association between Orientalism and Congolese URMs resettled in the Global North, this paper will consist of three distinct sections. First, I will provide a succinct summary of (P)CT and a more elaborate exploration of the evolution of Edward Said's theory of Orientalism. This section will also identify relevant scholars and additional key theoretical concepts within (P)CT. In addition, this component of the paper will make connections to everyday aspects of social work including research, theory, and practice. Secondly, the paper will illustrate direct and indirect, as well as micro and macro level, associations between Orientalism and the resettlement process for Congolese URMs residing in the Global North. This paper, using Orientalism, will provide critical avenues for conceptualizing the experiences of Congolese URMs living in the Global North, while cautioning against using Orientalism as a panacea for holistically appreciating the experiences of all Congolese URMs. Finally, the paper suggests that if refugee resettlement agencies from the Global North incorporate a (P)CT lens, combined with an Afrocentric collectivist paradigm, the resettlement experience for URMs could be greatly improved.

Evolution of (Post)Colonial Theory

Without colonialism (P)CT would not exist. Identifying colonialism's enduring impact, therefore, is vital to the development of (P)CT. Colonialism, a recurrent, systematic, and widespread attribute of human history, is defined as the Global North's domination, conquest, and subordination of other peoples' (i.e. Global South) lands, goods, livelihoods, and culture from the sixteenth century onwards (Gandhi, 1998; Loomba, 1988). Although colonialism was not an identical or universal process in varying regions of the world, a common theme throughout was that it locked newcomers and indigenous inhabitants into a grueling and unjust relationship (Childs, Williams, & Williams, 1997; Loomba, 1988) whose legacy can still be measured today.

In the 1950s and 60s, the colonized of the Global South began physically resisting decades of domination and, therefore, slowly but steadily gained sovereignty, while the ruling Global North's colonial powers receded. …

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