The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is often presented either as a post-Second World War institution, or a Cold-War institution, but its origins within colonialism are rarely discussed. However, the UNHCR and the 1951 Refugee Convention are products of the colonial era. This thesis engages with the colonial legacy in the international refugee regime, to analyse how practices of colonialism are still emerging in the relationship between the host state and the refugee. Focusing specifically on how practices of language and silence control and determine the refugee regime, the thesis adopts a postcolonial framework to analyse the refugee regime at three levels. Firstly, it examines the international level, with a focus on the UNHCR itself and the construction of the 1951 Convention, viewing the use of language and silence in the construction of the refugee definition. Secondly, it turns to the regional level to examine how language employed here can advance our understanding and fill in the gaps of the 1951 Convention. Thirdly, it focuses at the state level with a detailed analyses of the British and Kenyan refugee regimes, examining how practices of language, silence, and labelling have effectively marginalised the would-be refugee, establishing idealised notions of what a genuine asylum seeker, ‘bogus’ refugee, or victim should be. The thesis culminates with a call to acknowledge the colonial legacy of the refugee regime, and bring about a ‘colonial turn’, arguing that colonialism, cannot and should not be viewed as a contained historical event. Colonialism shaped and affected both the coloniser and the colonised, and the othering that enabled colonialism, is still continuing and encompasses not only the colonial other, but the foreign other. For the thesis argues that to observe the refugee regime is to observe colonialism in action.
|05 Ion 2015
|Economic and Social Research Council
|Jenny Edkins (Goruchwylydd) & Patrick Finney (Goruchwylydd)