Oral Presentation Session
Reviewed by: Society for Cultural Anthropology
Of interest to: Practicing and Applied Anthropologists, Teachers of Anthropology in Community Colleges, Students
Primary Theme: Immigration/Migration/Citizenship
Secondary Theme: Resilience
The continuing crisis of refugees and migrants is without a doubt one of the most critical issues in international relations today. Yet while the crisis is typically portrayed in media and politics with faceless statistics and questions about economic resources and national security, the experience of trauma continues even for those who manage to relocate. How can people who flee war torn nations be successfully re-settled in other countries and what are the long-term prospects for these communities of the dislocated? Can they be fully integrated into nations where they may continue to be perceived as different in racial, religious and cultural terms? How do Cold War divisions continue to cast a shadow over groups which now include both refugees and immigrants? A comparative study of people from a single homeland who are now scattered through several different countries or displaced within their country of origin can help us to understand the varieties of migrant precarity and how race and religion are constructed in diasporic settings. It can also help us to see when religion has served as a “watch and compass” (Tweed 2006) to guide them to adapt to a new setting, and when on the contrary it may have become (along with political ideologies) the basis for factionalism or division. Many refugees come from religiously diverse nations that are also deeply divided by civil war, so while each historical case is different, there is much that can be learned from a study of long term refugee communities and their integration into different host societies.
This panel looks at the issue of migrant precarities, with special attention to the role played by religion in structuring identity formation among diverse groups. Contributors shed light on the ways religious mobilizations and religious strategies of place-making help refugees recover and reconstruct their lives in exile during periods of loss. They provide critical reflections on the ongoing tensions between the secular and the sacred, secularism and religion, the national and the transnational, security and humanity, etc. These papers also examine how refugees and migrants understand their own experiences of suffering, displacement and exile, and how these experiences are narrated in the framework of various religions or secular traditions. Drawing on case studies ranging from Muslim minorities in China, Vietnamese communities in eastern Europe, transnational Hindus in New Jersey and secular Bangladeshis in the Nordic countries, this panel juxtaposes a range of experiences of exile and precarity, and situates them within wider themes of the role of religion in resistance, resilience, and assimilation.