Solidarity and struggle: an ethnography of the associational lives of African asylum seekers and refugees in Glasgow

Piacentini, Teresa (2012) Solidarity and struggle: an ethnography of the associational lives of African asylum seekers and refugees in Glasgow. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Since 2000, Glasgow has received thousands of asylum seekers, forcibly dispersed to the city through the implementation of the 1999 Immigration and Asylum Act. Over the years, many of those individuals have organised into what have gone on to become formally constituted voluntary associations. This thesis explores the social meanings and lived realities of association life, and the nature of associational practices, as they emerge and develop over time amongst dispersed African asylum seekers and refugees in Glasgow.

Based upon fieldwork undertaken over a twenty-six month period involving participant-observation, the thesis locates members’ micro-level understandings, experiences, and definitions of associational life within the wider macro context of broader political, social and cultural change. In so doing, the thesis analyses the complex and differentiated ways in which associational lives are experienced, and explores their intersection with a wide range of collective and individual identities beyond those connected to migrant status and ‘refugeeness’. The thesis thus seeks to challenge dominant definitions of associational forms as ‘refugee community organisations’, arguing that these contribute to constraining groups within fixed boundaries, and to perpetuating their position as an ‘unsettled’ population. Moreover, it is argued that the focus on ‘refugeeness’ fails to attend to the combination of internal and external factors affecting association emergence and continuity. Combining perspectives from social theory on migrant and minority associations and social movements with an anthropological approach that integrates internal processes with external forces, the thesis presents nuanced accounts of solidarity and struggle within groups. In contrast to representations that construct asylum seeker and refugee-led associations as fixed in time and space and defined by migrant status, this thesis argues for an understanding of group life that is sensitive to the fluidity of social relations in multiple social contexts which change and evolve over time. This requires an analysis of both the conditions that encourage the founding of groups and of the factors which support or inhibit their continued existence, and is crucial to ‘moving beyond refugeeness’.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: asylum seekers, refugees, community associations, categorisation and identification processes, 'refugeeness'
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HT Communities. Classes. Races
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Sociology Anthropology and Applied Social Sciences
Supervisor's Name: Virdee, Professor Satnam and Gibb, Dr. Robert
Date of Award: 2012
Depositing User: Dr Teresa Piacentini
Unique ID: glathesis:2012-3395
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 29 May 2012
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2012 14:06

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