This thesis relies on six months of original fieldwork in southeastern Myanmar to explore topics related to the repatriation of displaced Karen. The thesis argues that in order to understand the ramifications of repatriation after protracted refugee situations, it is important to analyze the impact of prolonged transition and uncertainty that characterizes the experience of displacement. This uncertainty is often coupled with insecurity and a scarcity of access not only to basic needs, but also to the fundamental elements of identity associated with home and belonging. When displacement has been stretched out far beyond the initial period of urgency the transitional period in between positions of stability approaches unsustainable lengths of instability. Just as the scarcity of access to food can cause a hungry individual to think of nothing else than food, the thesis posits that the scarcity of a sense of belonging which is associated with displacement can often engender in refugees an intense focus on national identity.
Based on ideas of scarcity one might expect the Karen population struggling to survive in rural southeastern Myanmar to regard returning refugees with hostility; as competition for limited resources. However, the data collected outlines some of the reasons the Karen decided to seek refuge in Thailand (including education), the experiences associated with life in a refugee camp, and some perceptions among the Karen in Myanmar about the possibilities of repatriation. Research participants are skeptical that mass repatriation will take place, but they welcome the return of their coethnics despite whatever challenges may ensue. The thesis takes this as evidence that, though Karen in Myanmar are no doubt experiencing poverty and instability, the idea of a homeland for Karen outweighs any fear of competition and results in a more welcoming stance toward prospective returnees.
|School:||The American University of Paris (France)|
|Source:||MAI 58/05M(E), Masters Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Southeast Asian studies|
|Keywords:||Circular migration, Cultural scarcity, Displacement, Liminal periods, Repatriation|
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