Performing Repatriation? The Role of Refugee Aid in Shaping New Beginnings in Mauritania


Fresia, Marion. 2014. “Performing Repatriation? The Role of Refugee Aid in Shaping New Beginnings in Mauritania.” Development and Change 45 (3): 434–57. doi:10.1111/dech.12086.

Author: Marion Fresia


Academic work on transitional justice has tended to focus on the most obvious and institutionalized sites where ideas about justice and transition are discussed or contested, such as truth commissions or international tribunals. Yet, there are many other sites where such ideas are framed, circulated or challenged, including sites outside transitional countries. Drawing on the case of Mauritania, where the repatriation of refugees has played a highly symbolic role during the latest ‘democratic’ transition, this article explores the specific roles played by refugee aid and past experiences of refugee life in shaping the terms of new beginnings in this country. As places of intense politicization of memory and appropriation of transnational discourses on human rights violations and transitional justice, refugee camps enhance the construction of new imagined communities based on a feeling of victimhood and abnormality and the construction of hegemonic narratives over the ‘just order’ to be aspired to for the future. The article outlines how such hegemonic ideas on justice and transition are shaped by humanitarian actors and the refugee elite, while at the same time being contested by subaltern groups through the production of alternative accounts of past injustices and through mundane practices.

Topics: Displacement & Migration, Refugees, Refugee/IDP Camps, Gender, Women, Gender Roles, Humanitarian Assistance, Justice, Transitional Justice Regions: Africa, West Africa Countries: Mauritania

Year: 2014

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