Performing Refugeeness in the Czech Republic: Gendered Depoliticisation through NGO Assistance


Szczepanikova, Alice. 2010. “Performing Refugeeness in the Czech Republic: Gendered Depoliticisation through NGO Assistance.” Gender, Place & Culture 17 (4): 461–77.

Author: Alice Szczepanikova


The article examines the gender micropolitics of non-governmental assistance to refugees in the Czech Republic – a post-socialist society which is becoming a country of immigration. It critically examines relations of power between refugees and local non-governmental organisations (NGOs). These NGOs act as mediators between refugees and the state, media, wider public and academic production of knowledge. It is argued that despite the important roles they play in securing refugees' access to rights, their assistance is often perceived as problematic by refugees. The article analyses these relations in a wider context of the institutions of the refugee system where the state has increasing power in defining the conditions under which NGO assistance to refugees is provided. The study is based on qualitative research among recognised refugees from the former Soviet Union living in the Czech Republic and local NGOs assisting them with integration into society. I demonstrate how particular forms of assistance and public representation depoliticise refugees in a sense of fostering rather than challenging unequal power relations that lock refugees in a position of clients lacking political means of influencing their place in a receiving society. This is done by conceptualising ‘a refugee’ as a performative identity that is being produced and enacted in feminised NGO spaces. The analysis highlights refugees' critical reflections on their position in the relations of assistance.

Keywords: NGO assistance to refugees, depoliticisation, Czech Republic, gender, power relations

Topics: Displacement & Migration, Refugees, Gender, Women, Gender Analysis, Humanitarian Assistance, NGOs, Post-Conflict, Rights, Human Rights, Women's Rights, Security Regions: Europe, Central Europe Countries: Czech Republic

Year: 2010

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