Studies in National and International Development


National and International Development

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Terrorist or Refugee? Securitization Meets Humanitarianism in Kenyan Camps

Jennifer Hyndman

Director Centre for Refugee Studies; Professor in Social Science & Geography, York University


What happens when spaces of counterinsurgency and humanitarianism collide? Who is apprehended in such contexts, and how is visibility catalyzed? Twenty-two years after they opened, refugee camps for Somalis in Dadaab, Kenya currently house almost half a million people. Refugees in these camps are not, for the most part, apprehended as humanitarian subjects in Kenyan public discourse or in international media. With the emergency phase over, they do not register on the global scale, and have become the ‘remnants’ of the global polity, the flotsam and jetsam of ongoing conflict in Somalia. And yet in the Kenyan context they are all too visible as potential terrorists, after serial attacks on civilian targets, including the Westgate Mall. The ‘war on terror’ in southcentral Somalia has shifted the ground and recalibrated the meanings of camps and refugees, with Al Shabab (‘the youth’) rebels operating in them. Subjectivity and apprehension are probed in this context.

Jennifer Hyndman

About the speaker: Jennifer Hyndman is Director of the Centre for Refugee Studies at York University in Toronto, Canada, and Professor in Social Science and Geography there. Her research focuses on humanitarianism and the securitization of forced migration from conflict zones and refugee camps to resettlement in North America. She addresses the intersection of war with the Indian Ocean tsunami and is the author of Dual Disasters: Humanitarian Aid after the 2004 Tsunami (2011), Managing Displacement: Refugees and the Politics of Humanitarianism (University of Minnesota Press, 2000), co-editor of Sites of Violence: Gender and Conflict Zones (University of California Press, 2004).