Accepted paper:

"Elsewhere" is "Nowhere": the present time and homecoming sense among congolese women refugees in Kampala (Uganda)


Miriam D'Elia (University of Turin)

Paper short abstract:

This paper aims to analyse the interpretation of “time” by the community of congolese women refugees in Kampala (Uganda). It will invistigate the construction of a painful present, which shapes between the idea of “no-return” (in the past) and a difficult “elsewhere” (in the future).

Paper long abstract:

This paper stems from an ethnographic research conducted in Kampala (Uganda), aimed to analyze the survival strategies of women refugees from the Kivu (DRC). Here we share Laura Hammond's critical approach about what is defined "speech of repatriation", emphasizing the problematic and the lack of familiarity in the concept of return. For the women refugees from the Kivu the country of origin is an alien and alienating place: it is no longer the cradle birth, but now it is only the symbol of violence and painful memories of the past. In fact are the so-called bad memories to play a crucial role in their idea of "no-return", as well as in the construction of the urban present. On the other hand for many women even Uganda is not a real "home", but an other insecure place to live. So here the possibility of resettlement grows, a myth that shapes into the minds of the women, but that will soon reveal its assumptions and its contradictory implications, remaining a "dream in midair". It is therefore important to question our assumptions about the meanings we give to the concepts of "time", "return", "home" and "place". The construction of being a refugee and a woman, in this case, represents a transition that has no return, that seems also to have no "elsewhere" and that certainly changes places and the relationships within it. The challenge that exile poses to these women is that the present is the soil from which reborn and where to plant new roots, not the past neither the future.

panel Mig005
Refugee visions and realities: interpreting time with people on the move