Impossible Refuge: The Control and Constraint of Refugee Futures, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Impossible Refuge

The Control and Constraint of Refugee Futures, 1st Edition

By Georgina Ramsay


214 pages | 1 B/W Illus.

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Impossible Refuge brings the perspectives of refugees into rapidly emerging dialogues about contemporary situations of mass forced migration, asking: what does it mean to be displaced? Based on multi-sited ethnographic research conducted with refugees from Central Africa living in situations of protracted asylum in Uganda and resettlement in Australia, the book provides a unique comparative analysis of global humanitarian systems and the experiences of refugees whose lives are interwoven with them. The book problematises the solutions that are currently in place to resolve the displacement of refugees, considering that since displacement cannot be reduced to a politico-legal problem but is an experience that resonates at an existential level, it cannot be assumed that politico-legal solutions to displacement automatically resolve what is, fundamentally, an existential state of being. Impossible Refuge therefore offers a new theoretical foundation through which to think about the experiences of refugees, as well as the systems in place to manage and resolve their displacement. The book argues that the refuge provided to refugees through international humanitarian systems is conditional: requiring that they conform to lifestyles that benefit the hegemonic future horizons of the societies that host and receive them. Impossible Refuge calls for new ways of approaching displacement that go beyond the exceptionality of refugee experience, to consider instead how the contestation and control of possible futures makes displacement a general condition of our time. As such, it will appeal to scholars across the social sciences with interests in migration and refugees, humanitarianism and violence, sovereignty and citizenship, cosmology and temporality, and African studies, broadly.

Table of Contents

List of Terms and Abbreviations



Part I Exodus

1. Cosmology and Futurity

2. Conflict and Historicity

3. Fear and Violence

Part II: Asylum

4. Liminal Asylum and Circular Time

5. Imaginaries and New Life

Part III: Resettlement

6. Resettlement and Contested Citizenship

7. Friction and Temporal Discordance

8. Refuge and Shifted Sociality

9. Thresholds and Being Dead

10. Sovereignty and Incommensurable Futures



About the Author

Georgina Ramsay is a socio-cultural anthropologist at the University of Delaware, USA. She has conducted research with refugees from Burundi, Rwanda, Liberia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo across settings of asylum in Uganda and resettlement in Australia. She has a professional background of working with resettled refugees in Australia, and has also published opinion pieces on topics related to forced migration in public media outlets.

About the Series

On Edge: Ethnographies and Theories of Threshold Phenomena

On Edge: Ethnographies and Theories of Threshold Phenomena

This series seeks to explore the circumstances that compel subjects, life-forms, and material things to reimagine, redefine and reorder their existence at the edge of experience and social orders. Concerned with the ever-present but often unarticulated doubt embedded in everyday life and based on a metaphysics of emergence, novelty and creativity as forces in their own right, it welcomes anthropological and trans-disciplinary studies of transformations and threshold phenomena, such as crises, disasters and catastrophes, deaths and births, sexualities, rituals of transition, and social movements.

With attention to phenomena that lie beyond the reach of everyday experience, whether these be life forms such as bacteria, material processes such as rusting, or the uncanny dimensions of the cultural and social, On Edge: Ethnographies and Theories of Threshold Phenomena encourages studies that develop innovative methodologies, including those informed by post-humanist perspectives, and seeks to make space for inventive and experimental projects.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Sociology / General