Nations Inside Out: An African Refugee Grammar


ACLS Fellowship Program


Sociology and Anthropology, and History


The contemporary African migration crisis provides scholars with an opportunity to recover the lived truths of mass mobility alongside fears, hearsay, and rumor. Refugee narratives constitute an oral archive of persecutory histories; assembled, catalogued, and analyzed together, they contain embedded vocabulary and syntax that subtly recast statehood and national power. Although asylum is a tightly-regulated register for affecting empathy, Africans engage strategies that upend prevailing paradigms. Reconstructing the contemporary refugee grammar through personal narratives reveals how the narrow political framing of the original refugee protocols spawns creative strategies to represent diverse new persecutory experiences in contemporary Africa, such as gendered violence or witchcraft.