EASA, 2010: EASA2010: Crisis and imagination

Maynooth, 24/08/2010 – 27/08/2010

(W081)

Crisis, pain and wellbeing: the imagining and bearing of refugee/migrants social, moral and existential crisis

Location Arts Classhall D
Date and Start Time 25 Aug, 2010 at 11:30

Convenors

Anne Sigfrid Grønseth (University College of Lillehammer) email
Janus Oomen (University of Amsterdam) email
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Long Abstract

This session is to shed light on how we can critically examine, explore and imagine the millions of refugee and migrants in the world who experience crisis of war, torture, starvation, epidemiology, unemployment, exploitation, prejudicial treatment and social marginalisation that disturb and rupture everyday life. We hold that migration alone does not lead to poor health. Rather it is a number of circumstances such as employment status, housing conditions, traumatic events and existential humiliation before, during or after dislocation and resettlement that lead to distress and reduced health. Departing from studies of refugee/migrant illness, pain, wellbeing and success we invite papers to discuss how these experiences link to issues of identity, cosmology, solidarity, morality and existentialism. We call for papers that highlight on the one side how refugee/migrants themselves experience distinct crisis - and on the other side how the receiving (majority/native) population imagine, perceive and describe the crisis - all linked to shifting moments and contexts as well as to various pains, feelings, meanings and social relations.

Discussant: Andrew Dawson and Annemiek Richters

This workshop is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Health, illness and crisis from perspective of Polish female migrants

Author: Izabella Main (Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznan)  email
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Long Abstract

Migration leads to a redefinition of strategies, practices and beliefs about body, health and medicine. In this paper I would like to present preliminary results of my research project concerning the impact of migration upon individual and social attitudes towards illness, distress and well-being. The fieldwork (in progress) has been conducted among Polish female migrants in London, Barcelona and Berlin. Main research questions are what strategies and practices are used to deal with illness and reduced health in a situation of the changed locality, how beliefs concerning health and body are questioned and negotiated in intercultural contact. Changes of social and cultural context lead to redefinition of support circle of family and friends that might lead to temporal (and sometimes permanent) crisis. In response, new support networks are sometimes generated to deal with a situation of existential and social crisis resulting from migration.

Remembering in Bosnian diaspora: from individual grief to shared history

Author: Laura Huttunen (University of Tampere)  email
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Long Abstract

The dissolution of Yugoslavia, accompanied by the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina between 1992 and 1995 meant enormous personal and collective losses for most, if not all Bosnians. In Western countries where large part of the Bosnian refugee population is living, there is a tendency to individualize and psychologize refugees' experiences, to understand them as individual 'trauma' cut off from the social and political context of their flight. In this paper, based on multi-sited fieldwork between Finland and Bosnia-Herzegovina, I will present a case study, a Bosnian man attending psycho -therapy in Finland, and his attempts to speak about his grievances for larger audiences, beyond the privacy of therapy sessions. I suggest that addressing meaningfully his current predicament calls for addressing layers of history, as well as questions of morality and accountability. This singular case will have implications for considering refugees' predicament in more general sense.

The medical examiner and the asylum seeker

Author: Janus Oomen (University of Amsterdam)  email
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Long Abstract

This paper discusses the medical constituent in the support of the asylum request. Medical reports in connection with asylum applications have become quite common in European resettlement countries. The medical professional approach links to issues of identity, solidarity, morality and the application of medical rights as put forward by the Istanbul Protocol (2002; paragraph 67). We reflect on the medical ethical duty to monitor and speak out as experienced by the Medical Examination Group of Amnesty International (Netherlands). The question is what roles medical practitioners could and should play in case asylum claims are rejected without appropriate medical evaluations. What are the medico-legal and ethical obligations? How should the reports be written in accordance with the Istanbul Protocol and by whom? Should the attending physicians be competent or are there to be specialised independent non-governmental medical examiners?

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Anticipated stigma and social position within the Haitian-American community

Author: Jeannine Coreil (University of Miami)  email
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Long Abstract

Haitian immigrants to the United States face complex public identities associated with infectious diseases, poverty, discrimination and related stereotypes. These identities influence social reactions to stigmatized diseases such as tuberculosis. However, anticipated stigma may vary according to one's social position within the immigrant community. This paper reports findings of a cultural epidemiologic study of TB-related stigma expectations in three South Florida comparison groups: persons of Haitian origin diagnosed with latent TB, non-affected members of the Haitian community, and health care providers who work with Haitian patients. Differences in degree and components of anticipated stigma across groups are described using ethnographic and survey data. Non-affected community members and health care providers report higher anticipated stigma than do patients themselves, and the dimensions of TB stigma also vary across groups. Alternative explanations for these differences are discussed in terms of the implications for stigma theory and health policy.

Tamil refugees in low status 'dirty work': challenging identity and solidarity

Author: Anne Sigfrid Grønseth (University College of Lillehammer)  email
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Long Abstract

This paper focuses on how Tamil refugees in Norway experience crisis in identity and sense of community and belonging. Departing from a study of Tamil refugee's illness and wellbeing issues of identity, solidarity, and morality related to work emerge. Data from ethnographic fieldwork among Tamils in northern-Norway and the capitol of Oslo illustrate how Tamils in Norway are admitted almost exclusively into low status "dirty work". The paper presents a case illustrating how Tamils experience work as exploitive and stigmatizing, but also a modicum of security and opportunity for re-creating individual and group identity and projects. The paper suggests how Tamils, and other migrant groups in Norway, can be seen to experience a crisis in experiences of existential and social belonging and identity that can stimulate features of fundamentalism.

The politics of suffering: asylum-seeking children and the crisis of asylum

Author: Marita Eastmond (School of Global Studies/Nordic School of Public Health)  email
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Long Abstract

The welfare of asylum-seeking children in the shrinking space of asylum has been a topic of intense political debate in Sweden in recent years. The issue is framed by the tension between immigration and asylum policy on the one hand and human rights conventions such as CRC on the other. The case of children who develop severe devitalisation as they fear deportation have raised particular political and scientific controversy, in the absence of a recognised diagnosis and without parallel cases in other receiving countries. The issue has spurred images of refugee children as vulnerable victims, but also raised questions about the authenticity of their suffering. The issue forms part of a wider problematic of changing terms of asylum in Europe today. Ill health is a expression of, as well as an imaginative resource in, a situation of severely limited options.

"A future for the children is what you wish the most": the impact of intergenerational dynamics and crises on refugees' senses of well-being and social inclusion in Denmark

Author: Birgitte Romme Larsen (University of Copenhagen)  email
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Long Abstract

The paper investigates the everyday settlement processes of newly recognized refugee families living in rural areas of Denmark. Using ethnographic examples, the paper explores the dreams, understandings, strategies and crises of well-being of refugees who are also parents. It does so by enquiring into the processes by which these parents seek to create a sense of belonging and the ways in which they pursue life coherence and a positive outlook on the future within their Danish surroundings. It is argued that they mostly experience and comprehend their strivings for a better future by means of an intergenerational rationale that causes them to assess the family's social mobility - and the success of the entire act of migration as such - in terms of what the future promises for their children rather than for themselves. The paper demonstrates that intergenerational dynamics and crises form a crucial relational and temporal factor with regard to both existential well-being and aspirations for social integration into Danish society.

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Pakistani diaspora and the quest for wellbeing

Author: Mikkel Rytter (Aarhus University)  email
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Long Abstract

Pakistani migrant families in Denmark have achieved levels of material prosperity, economic security and social mobility that the first generation could only dream of before they left Pakistan. They have fulfilled the promises of development and progress inherent in grand narratives of migration and modernity. However, the apparent success has also created disappointment and disillusion. Pakistanis currently go through a specific 'crisis of success' that affects the moral order of family relations and household organisation. The well-educated independent second generation often challenge and redefine basic ideas of what it means to be and do family. This happens within a Danish context where national policies and legal measures have been introduced to rearrange the organisation and intimacies of Muslim immigrant families in the name of 'integration'.

This paper discusses how Pakistani migrants cope with various kinds of afflictions by consulting Islamic healers in both Denmark and Pakistan. The quest for wellbeing is not only related to pains and suffering of 'the individual body' but also to ongoing transformations of 'the social body' of family and kinship relations.

Some are more human than others? Humanitarian aid, human rights, and health care for undocumented migrants in Germany

Author: Susann Huschke (Wits University, Johannesburg, South Africa)  email
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Long Abstract

This paper analyses unequal structures of health care in Germany, grappling with the question: "If access to health care is considered a human right, who is considered human enough to have that right?" (Farmer 2005: 206). Based on my field work with undocumented Latino migrants and care givers in Berlin, I state a trend in German national and local politics to favor "humanitarian aid" over the human right to equal access to health care. NGOs establish parallel structures of health care for undocumented migrants, supported by policy makers. These structures, however, can only provide selective treatment, as I will show, and reinforce a stratified system of care based on the notion of who is "human enough" to receive full medical treatment - and who is not. Within this system, undocumented migrants are perceived and constructed as undeserving patients, thereby a "limited and limiting notion of humanity" (Ticktin 2006: 42) is promoted.

Pishtacos: fat-stealing murderers and structural Inequalities among rural and low income migrants in Peru

Author: Ernesto Vasquez del Aguila (Georgetown University)  email
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Long Abstract

This paper analyzes social images and narratives about pishtacos (fat-stealing murderers) among rural and low income migrants Peru. Through the analysis of archival data from colonial times to current media news and migrants' discourses, this paper shows the use of "mythical" everyday narratives among marginalized people as a strategy for social cohesion, solidarity and resistance. It discusses the relationship between "magic" narratives and indigenous suffering; the cultural creation of murderers and victims; and the meanings attached to the indigenous body and its marginalisation in the Andean region. This paper shows how myths and rumors have the power of everyday social interactions, and despite their lack of "veracity", they offer invaluable sources to understand the world the way the storytellers do. Myths such as the pishtaco are alternative ways of oppressed people exercising resistance in the face of symbolic and structural exclusion.

This workshop is closed to new paper proposals.