Dr. Georgina Ramsay: "Humanitarian exploits: ordinary displacement and the political economy of the global refugee regime."

October 27, 2017 - 3:00pm


Humanitarian exploits: ordinary displacement and the political economy of the global refugee regime

Georgina Ramsay, Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of Delaware

Can the displacement of refugees continue to be understood as exceptional? The recent global increase in refugees has prompted calls to develop new solutions to displacement that focus on integrating refugees into the local economies of nations that receive them. Transforming refugees from economic burdens to economic benefits does not, however, resolve displacement: doing so only shifts the project of refugee protection from a supposedly humanitarian imperative to an economic incentive. Examining how political economy intersects with moral economy in the global refugee regime by drawing on fieldwork conducted with refugees in Uganda and Australia, I describe how efforts to incorporate refugees into local economies not only fail to resolve their displacement but serve to exacerbate it, with such “humanitarian exploits” transforming refugees from recipients of humanitarian aid to highly exploitable workers who are, in their words, unable to “make a life.” I consider that continuing to analyze refugees as objects of humanitarian intervention rather than actors in a globalized political economy is a way to reproduce the exceptionality of refugee experiences and conceal how their lives are implicated within and indicative of new formations of global capitalism. Not only is the displacement of refugees not exceptional: it is emblematic of an increasingly globalized experience of ordinary displacement through which citizenship and civic rights are stratified by reducing the value of human life to the potential to extract economic productivity.

Georgina Ramsay (PhD University of Newcastle, 2016) is a socio-cultural and politico-legal anthropologist at the University of Delaware. Her research focuses broadly on refugees, displacement, and sovereignty, and she has conducted fieldwork in Australia and Uganda with refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, and Rwanda. She has recently published articles in Public Culture, Political and Legal Anthropology Review, and Anthropological Quarterly, among others, and her book, Impossible Refuge (Routledge), will be published in November 2017.

co-sponsored by the Global Studies Center

Location and Address

3106 WWPH - Anthropology Lounge