Northwestern University

Mon 4:30 PM

"What Happens to Law in a Refugee Camp?" Elizabeth Holzer, Univ. of Connecticut

When: Monday, February 25, 2013
4:30 PM - 5:30 PM  

Where: 620 Library Place, Program of African Studies, Conference Room, Evanston, IL 60208 map it

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Student - Public

Contact: Galya Ruffer  

Group: Center for Forced Migration Studies (CFMS)

Program of African Studies
Center for Legal Studies

Category: Academic


The Center for Forced Migration Studies Faculty Working Group series presents:

What Happens to Law in a Refugee Camp?
Elizabeth Holzer, University of Connecticut

How do people living in a refugee camp engage with legal practices, discourses, and institutions? For critics, refugee camps have become a highly visible symbol of failed human rights campaigns. These critics argue that refugee camps leave people in "legal limbo" depriving them of the "right to have rights" despite the presence of international humanitarian actors and the entitlements enshrined in international laws. In contrast, I argue based on an ethnography of the Buduburam refugee camp in Ghana, West Africa that although they were ultimately denied security and justice, refugees engaged extensively with law; the camp was a site of legal mobilization as well as marginalization. The paper contributes to the research agenda on law in humanitarian settings an empirically grounded account of the subjective dimensions of legal marginalization and mobilization illuminating: (1) refugees' development as international legal subjects; (2) their marginalization from domestic legal institutions; and (3) their agency within the legal field. More broadly, it contributes to international human rights debates by theorizing partial outcomes to international human rights campaigns--compromised legal institutions and confused awareness of entitlements--as highly consequential and conceptually interesting outcomes to international campaigns.

Elizabeth Holzer is Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology and Human Rights Institute at the University of Connecticut. Her work explores how and with what consequences people re-engage in politics in humanitarian settings. She is currently working on a book manuscript about the emergence and suppression of social movement activism by Liberians refugees in a refugee camp in Ghana, West Africa. She received her doctorate in Sociology from the University of Wisconsin in 2010.

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