Refugee Displacement and Identity: Finding Home

Refugee Displacement and Identity: Finding Home

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Refugee Displacement and Identity: Finding Home

When fleeing persecution, winning trust and welcome in a foreign land depends on the meaning of the label of displacement. According to Daniel, the making of modern refugee identity hinges on the right language affixed to your desperation, and right interpretation of this desperation by powerful authorities; proving modern identity can be a deadly game.

Modern identity often takes shape in the blending of lines that weren’t supposed to blend. No matter how coded or enforced, labels never hold all of one’s identity in place. The lines bounding the identity of the refugee are determined by the UN, and dictate a system of values foreign to many would-be refugees. For the Tamil mother from Sri Lanka, individual status as a refugee does not make sense; she is connected to the bones of her son and the soil in which they lie in Canada (Daniel 278). Terms of individuality are relative in the cultural understanding of many displaced peoples: collective identity in family structure supercedes that dictated by Western nation states, though the argument for asylum depends upon cognizance of Western value systems.

When lines of identity inevitably blend, relative jurisprudence must be exercised. Lines make excluding circles and methods of excluding people from asylum; our international community divides into unwelcome and welcome nations. As discourse, cultural identity means translating beliefs and feelings from one culture to another. In the process of translation, a screen of cultural values filters understanding of the values and experience of the “other.” The simple word “refugee” evokes images and stories particular to a collectively defined identity, invoking “an image of the radicalized other” (Daniel 272).

Finding trust and cultural understanding is crucial in securing safe haven; the human category of refugee is inundated with hydrophobic metaphors and imagined “racial markers” delimitating the story of the refugee into numbers and race categories (271).

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