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Title: The conditions for imagining and enacting identity in exile : the discursive production of Afghan identity in London
Author: Schlenkhoff, Angela
ISNI:       0000 0004 2675 7765
Awarding Body: The University of Kent
Current Institution: University of Kent
Date of Award: 2006
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Over the past two decades the focus of social anthropology has increasingly shifted towards issues of identity and identity formation among immigrant populations. As the subjects of anthropological research change, the discipline increasingly seeks to understand identity processes amongst population groups which link more than one country through physical, as well as mental, processes. Thus, the question ‘where do I belong?’ is at the heart of this thesis which explores the various ways in which Afghan refugees in London imagine and enact their identity through the (re-)production of a home and a homeland in exile. Furthermore, this research comes at a time when growing conservatism in the European Union creates a negative image of an essentialised ‘refugee’, which has an adverse effect on refugee populations around the region. Through the use of narratives, this study highlights how Afghans are making sense of their altered status as refugees within the host society by attempting to (re-)create coherent life narratives on the basis of memories related to the home and the homeland, as well as their more recent experiences in the host society. It draws attention to the negotiation of a sense of belonging, as well as its construction, in an oscillation between roots and routes: between the refugees' moral community of co-nationals and the respective social-cultural practices, norms and values exercised on one hand and the present existence in the unknown and unfamiliar on the other hand which, however, also offers new opportunities. Thus, the study emphasises both the particularities in the universalised experience of being a refugee and the situational character of identity production through the juggling of various strands of memories, on the national, communal and individual levels, depending on the antagonism with which one is confronted. Through a preoccupation with ‘truth’, ‘true refugees’ in the case of the host society and ‘true Afghan-ness’ in the case of the Afghan population, social relations among the refugee population are fragmented. Afghans enclose themselves, withdrawing largely from the host society, and only selectively engaging with it. At the same time, through the ever-vigilant imagined community of Afghans in London and the threat of social sanctions against those not conforming with the dominant interpretations of ‘pure Afghan-ness’, Afghans view one another with a degree of mistrust and engage in few social relations contained in clearly defined networks. Thus, ‘identity’ and the sense of belonging are never taken for granted but must be justified on a daily basis.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available