Through the concept of refugeetude, this article explores interlinked questions about the temporality of experience, psychic formation, and political possibility. Starting with the premise that lived experiences of refuge(e) constitute a form of subjectivity, and proposing an expansion of the refugee category beyond the legal definition to include a range of times, places, and subjects, this article conceptualizes refugeetude as a coming into consciousness of the social, political, and historical forces that situate refugee subjects and the acts that attempt to know, impact, and transcend this situation. The concept marks a critical reorientation, an epistemological shift in how we think about and understand the category refugee. Redirecting dominant perception of refugee as a temporary legal designation and a condition of social abjection toward refugee as an enduring creative force, refugeetude opens up new ways of conceptualizing refugee subjects and the relationalities that extend beyond the parameters of refugeeness, generating connections to past, present, and future forms of displacement. The author contends that, through the concept of refugeetude, we can comprehend refugee not as an irregularity or disruption of political subjecthood—a crisis to be resolved—but as an experiential resource for developing significant and durable ways of being in and moving through the world.
Refugeetude: When Does a Refugee Stop Being a Refugee
Vinh Nguyen is assistant professor of English at Renison University College, University of Waterloo. His research and teaching interests include critical refugee studies, Asian diasporic literatures and cultures, postcolonialism, and auto/biography.
Vinh Nguyen; Refugeetude: When Does a Refugee Stop Being a Refugee. Social Text 1 June 2019; 37 (2): 109–131. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/01642472-7371003
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