Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Sociology

From Deserving Victims to 'Masters of Confusion': Redefining Refugees in the 1990s

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Sociology

From Deserving Victims to 'Masters of Confusion': Redefining Refugees in the 1990s

Article excerpt

Abstract: Immigration, crime, and social welfare are generally regarded as separate issues, both by government officials and by scholars. We show in this article that much is gained by studying the ways in which these dimensions of governance, at the levels of both government and populist fears, come together, intermixing and constituting new 'hybrid' objects that can be used to govern a number of fields. Fears about 'welfare fraud,' about 'bogus refugees,' and about racialized crime -- fears which on their own had considerable power -- merged together in the mid-1990s in a way that had particularly dire effects on Toronto's Somali community. We here analyze both the general, national features of the panics and concerns in question, and the ways in which they affected this particular community, seeking thereby to call for increased attention to hybrid governance -- the ways in which, for example, immigration policy is increasingly being governed through crime.

Resume: L'immigration, le crime et le bien-etre social sont generalement consideres comme des questions differentes, tant par les officiels des gouvernements que par les erudits. Nous demontrons dans cet article qu'il y a grand interet a etudier la facon dont ces dimensions de gouvernance, tant au niveau du gouvernement que des peurs populistes, se recoupent et se melangent pour constituer de nouveaux objets [much less than] hybrides [much greater than] pouvant etre utilises pour regir un certain nombre de domaines. Les craintes au sujet des [much less than] fraudeurs dc bien-etre social [much greater than], les [much less than] pseudo-refugies [much greater than] et du crime a caractere raciste -- des craintes qui, chacune separement, avaient deja un pouvoir considerable -- se sont fusionnees ensemble au milieu des annees 1990 d'une facon qui a eu des effets notoires sur la communaute somalienne de Toronto. Nous analysons ici a la fois les caracteristiques generales et nationales des paniques et des inquietu des en cause, ainsi que les facons dont cette collectivite particuliere a ete affectee par elles, cherchant par le fait meme a porter davantage attention a la gouvernance hybride -- par exemple, les facons par lesquelles la politique d'immigration est de plus en plus gouvernee par l'intermediaire du banditisme.

**********

In the mid-1990s, Canada witnessed a process by which the figures of the 'welfare cheat' and the 'bogus refugee,' constructed through official crackdowns and populist panics about welfare and about immigration, converged upon a particular group, refugee claimants. The resulting composite figure of the 'bogus' refugee on welfare, thought to be craftily engaged in defrauding immigration and social services simultaneously, was then mobilized in ways that disproportionately affected a number of visible minorities. We will trace in this article the emergence of these two figures in their separate institutional and discursive contexts and then go on to document how they came together in the mid-1990s, paying particular attention to the Somali community in Toronto. In the process we shall demonstrate that the law-and-order discourses on crime that have become popular in recent years in Canada and in other countries, have effects well beyond the field of criminal justice policy. Immigration policy, and especially pol icies and practices governing deportations, is being re-shaped under the banner of crime (Pratt, 2000).

Somalis are among the groups that have had the misfortune of being nominated for the spot created by this explosive mixture of concerns about what has come to be known, in a peculiar appropriation of feminist language, 'system abuse.' In more recent years concerns about the Somalis have given way to mini-panics focussed on other groups (economic migrants from China, for instance), and no doubt other groups of 'undeserving' claimants will arise in the future. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.