Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

Anita Häusermann Fábos ─ Escape from Limbo: Forced migration, refugee home-making, and how feminist geopolitics offers policy-makers a way out

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

4 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.

McKinney Conference Room, 111 Thayer Street

It is an accepted notion that refugees are a product of the nation-state system, and the refugee protection and humanitarian aid system shares the same geopolitical logic. However, the problem of groups of people “out of place” for years or decades is increasingly visible—and poses an insoluble dilemma for the international goal of “safe, orderly, and regular migration.” Known by the policy term “protracted refugee situations” (PRS), long-term displacement is often described as “limbo,” and the people in those predicaments as having “no way home.” In our project on home and home-making for people living in long-term displacement, Cathrine Brun and I take a deep look at the concept of “limbo” in our current humanitarian system to address the conundrum that it is the paradigm itself that creates stasis. Inspired by feminist scholarship that critiques the commonly held idea of a binary relationship between home and away, we add a third dimension to demonstrate how geopolitical assumptions about home shape humanitarian policy. We argue that to escape from refugee management limbo we need to take our cue from people living with long-term displacement, and present a new feminist geopolitics of home as a constellation of practices and ideas that show us a way out of the current global impasse.

Anita Fábos is a professor of International Development and Social Change at Clark University. She is an anthropologist who has worked and conducted research together with Muslim Arab Sudanese refugees in the Middle East, Europe, and North America.

Formerly the Director of the Forced Migration and Refugee Studies program at the American University in Cairo, and later Programme Coordinator for the graduate program in Refugee Studies at the University of East London, Fábos has integrated teaching, research, and participatory programs that have incorporated refugee and forced migrant perspectives into collaborative work with scholars, practitioners, refugee organizations, policy makers, and international organizations. At Clark University, students in her classes have carried out community-based projects that have investigated refugee participation in community development initiatives, refugee access to higher education, refugee livelihoods in Worcester, and experiences of belonging and home for people from refugee and non-refugee backgrounds.

Fábos and her writing partner Cathrine Brun (Professor and Director, CENDEP, Oxford Brookes University) are working on a book on home and home-making for people in circumstances of long-term displacement, entitled Constellations of Home. She is also co-principle investigator (with Ed Carr) of the Worcester, MA site for Project MISTY, a six-city initiative with funding through the Belmont Forum that explores the ways that migration interacts with sustainability concerns in destination cities, with an emphasis on the unrecognized benefits that it can bring.

Development and Governance Seminar