Somali and Kurdish refugees in London : diaspora, identity and power
This comparative study of Somali and Kurdish refugees in London aims to develop understanding of refugee adaptation and identity formation as these are experienced differentially by two recently arrived refugee groups with distinctive histories, identities and orientation to political activity in both the country of origin and the society of reception. The thesis is based upon ethnographic fieldwork with individuals from both groups and in this respect marks a distinctive contribution to the study of refugees in Britain. In addition to original fieldwork material the thesis is based upon a detailed historical reconstruction of the groups in their country of origin and within the settlement context in London. A range of secondary data is also drawn upon at different stages of the argument. The thesis is in four parts. Part one is a critical review of the literature on refugee adaptation and identity and argues for the importance of theories of ethnicity and cultural identity to the study of refugees in countries of settlement. The concept of diaspora is introduced as an heuristic device to elucidate the processes of flight, settlement and identity formation which are addressed in parts two to four of the thesis. Part two examines Somalia and Kurdistan as refugee generating areas. The international response to refugee crises in these two cases is set within a changed conception of security in the post-Cold war order. Part three documents the changing policy context and British government reception of the two groups in the late 1980s. The migration histories and settlement patterns of the groups in addition to differences in patterns of formal organisation are also examined. Part four is the kernel of the thesis and illustrates the role of imagined communities - the selfrepresentation of communal identities - in the adaptation of the groups and of individual refugees in London. Throughout this research the role and importance of group-specific factors to the adaptation process is emphasised. The distinctive histories, identities and aspirations of individual refugee groups and individuals is at the heart of the analysis. The quest for recognition, for economic and social parity in the country of settlement in addition to claims for cultural and national distinctiveness, raise important methodological and ethical issues which are addressed throughout the thesis.