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Panel: The Effects of Recent Changes in National and International Governments and Policies on Refugee Experiences in Host Countries

Contact: Russell Manzano at manzano01@knights.ucf.edu and Kelly Yotebieng at yotebieng.3@osu.edu

Governments in Europe and the United States have recently experienced intense political upheavals. The right-leaning and populist parties have been gaining strength, and fueling nationalist and xenophobic sentiments in many segments of society. The global refugee “crisis” is at the heart of these complex dynamics. It is imperative to examine these geopolitical changes anthropologically to understand how they affect refugees’ experiences in host countries and perpetuate cycles of harm. This panel seeks to examine how international and national regime shifts influence immigration policy, and how these changes in turn shape the experiences of refugees and migrants. Additionally, we will explore the interpretation of these recent policy shifts from the perspective of countries of origin (e.g., Rwanda) and host countries (e.g., Italy), and how these often competing or contradictory perspectives further complicate the implementation of international refugee law and policies. Further, since nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) contribute to and are often vital in the process of resettlement and integration of refugees, the ways in which these groups attempt to ameliorate the economic and social suffering of refugees in host countries is critical to deepening our understanding of how larger political changes affect these on-the-ground efforts.

Building on a robust anthropological literature that examines refugee policy, this panel seeks to expand refugee and migration analysis by considering the effects of rising nationalism in the context of abrupt political changes that occurred in 2016. This panel critically examines how political events, such as the British exit from the European Union, the European response to refugees, and the 2016 United States elections, have influenced immigration and refugee policy, both nationally and internationally. The increase of nationalism and xenophobia, particularly in the Global North, often creates concepts of “deservingness” of refugees based on their country of origin, religion, and ethnicity as shown by Holmes and Castañeda (2016). Thus, we question how the public perception of deservingness categorizes individuals as either refugees in need of humanitarian aid or dangerous migrants. Likewise, we also examine how increases in the number of migrants and refugees traveling to host countries affect public opinion and immigration policy. This panel seeks to understand critical questions relating to global political events and refugees. How does political change in host or home countries affect refugees’ protection under the Geneva Convention and international law? How does the increase in nationalism affect the public sentiments towards refugees and their perceived deservingness? How do regime and policy changes affect individual refugees, as well as refugee “diasporas” in general? Our session will explore the impact of current political events on refugee policy, public perception, and refugees’ experiences in both home and host countries. This panel will allow presenters to demonstrate how anthropological research can contribute to the understanding of immigration and refugee policy, and inform policy makers and NGOs to best assist refugees.

We invite abstracts from both academic and practicing anthropologists, as well as other disciplines, for papers that ethnographically explore these questions and problems.  Please submit an abstract (250 words max.) to the panel organizers by Friday, MARCH 31, for full consideration.

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