South Sudan Oyee! A Political Economy of Refugee Return Migration to Chukudum, South Sudan
Newhouse, Léonie S.
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This dissertation delineates a political economy of refugee return migration to South Sudan by examining refugees' shifting practices of production, social reproduction and exchange, their spatialization and their intersection with various axes of difference. My work builds on theories relating geopolitics, everyday practice, and commoditization to unpack the material practices and political subjectivities engendered by refugee return migration. I trace how practices move with people and are reshaped, but only ever partially, in relation to a new context. I argue that high volume migration produces moments in which space and the authority to define its contours are renegotiated through embodied material practices. In northern Kenya, I found that Kakuma refugee camp spatializes difference by linking entitlements (to rations, environmental resources, or the authority to allow or forbid settlement and mobility) to particular social categories of people so long as they remain in their appropriate space. Living within this kind of space naturalizes a logic of segregation that equates authority over space and material prosperity with difference. While life in the camp lead to increasing commoditization among Didinga refugees, when they returned to the small rural town of Chukudum, most took up subsistence production as one way to navigate their exposure to reduced life chances in a floundering post-conflict economy. While subsistence production augmented local economic autonomy, access to land was mediated through notions of autochthony that reproduced some of the same exclusions that shaped camp life. Post-conflict recovery must, then, be concerned with the material and socio-spatial legacies of refugee camp life. Additionally, when subsistence production is seen as the most secure livelihood option--even for those with other sources of income--it can also be read as an indication of the extreme precarity that characterized other forms of work in post-conflict South Sudan.
- Geography