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Refugee Political Subjectivities Lunch

April 6, 2018 @ 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm

Dr. Kirsi Pauliina Kallio and Dr. Jouni Hakli
University of Tampere, Finland

I. Lunch and seminar with faculty and students
12-1:30pm, 3009 FedEx Global Education Center on Friday, April 6, 2018
Please RSVP for readings and let me know if you have any dietary restrictions.

Event flyer in PDF format

Join for the lecture as well on Friday!
Political agency in vulnerable life situations: studying refugee political subjectivities
3:30-5:00pm, 220 Carolina, Friday, April 6, 2018

Abstract: In the contemporary world, refugeeness can no longer be seen as an exceptional position or an identity of the few. According to the UNHCR, the number of refugees is currently over 21 million and that of forcibly displaced people more than 65 million. Hence, globally, becoming a refugee at some stage of one’s life has ceased to be a rarity. Yet, for each person involved the situation is always unique even if sometimes anticipated. Those leaving their place of residence to seek asylum in another country go through a process that shows them what it means to be a refugee, in their case. This happens to some extent even when people shift from one refugee position to another, as for example is the case with people who have lived their childhood in exile. In these situations it is common to experience that, as refugees, people’s capacities and opportunities to act are reduced and fundamentally changed. They no longer hold the social, cultural, economic or citizen positions and resources they had in their countries of origin, nor are they on an equal standing with the residents of the place where they apply for asylum. Thus, people need to learn how to act as refugees, which means building new identities and agencies most often based on multiple weak subject positions.

As refugeeness is characterized by high degree of vulnerability, it is uncommon to consider refugee political agency beyond explicit forms of activism. The ‘ordinary refugee’ who seeks to adjust to the available living conditions, struggles from day to day to meet the everyday needs, and waits for years for status determination and possible relocation, may seem to be living a non-political life. Yet if we ask what this living takes, what it requires from people as individuals and groups, questions of mundane political agency arise. How is it possible for people to retain the self-confidence, self-respect and self-esteem that they need to survive the challenging everyday, to work continuously towards a better future and, if lucky, build a completely new life in a foreign society? Where do people get the mental resources that help them to overcome recurring misfortunes that could be overwhelming to anyone? How do families scattered across borders and treated differently by the refugee aid system succeed in upholding a life worth living and aspiring for?

With these questions in mind, we have interviewed asylum seekers in Cairo, Egypt and Tampere, Finland, to gain a better understanding about the mundane political agencies of refugees. Based on our previous research, we have focused on their political subjectivities and identities as refugees, which we think forms the key to grasping political subject formation and agency in everyday life. In this presentation, we will introduce our approach to the ‘political ordinary’ and reflect upon how it unfolds in the lives of some of our research participants.

Kirsi Pauliina Kallio, Senior Researcher, School of Management at University of Tampere, Finland. Academy of Finland Research Fellow, Docent; Space and Political Agency Research Group (SPARG); Society for Regional and Environmental Studies (AYS), Chair; Editor-in-Chief of Fennia and Book Review Editor of Space & Polity. Areas of expertise: political agency, political subjectivities and identities, critical political geographies, spatial theories and methodologies, lived citizenship and democracy, child and youth politics and policies, children’s rights

Jouni Hakli, Professor, Regional Studies, School of Management at University of Tampere. Space and Political Agency Research Group (SPARG), Vice Director of the New Social Research programme; Vice-Director of the Centre of Excellence in Research on the Relational and Territorial Politics of Bordering, Identities and Transnationalization (RELATE). Areas of expertise: transnationalization, marginalization, political subjectivity and agency, territoriality, border studies, regionalization, identity, methodology of human geography


April 6, 2018
12:00 pm - 1:30 pm


Department of Geography
(919) 962-8901
View Organizer Website


FedEx Global Center #3009
301 Pittsboro St
Chapel Hill, NC 27514 United States
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