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Research Project Processes of Subjectivation

Processes of subjectivation and self-formation of young women addressed as ‘refugees‘

Within anthropological research, the experience of young women addressed as ‘refugees’ is underrepresented. In everyday life, they encounter interrelated ascriptions of social difference based on ideas of age, class, ethnicity and gender. Irrespective of their individual biography, they are confronted with different expectations how to behave accordingly while the young women’s own perception and self-formation is not often observed.

At the core of this project stands the investigation of the interplay and interrelations of images of gender and culturalization as well as ethnicization within everyday practices of bordering (Yuval-Davis). Furthermore, the research draws on recent studies on subjectivation, intersectionality studies, critical migration research as well as anthropological discussions on “agency”. These theories and thoughts serve as a point of departure for describing and investigating the mesh of ascriptions, ideas and expectations young women addressed as ‘refugees’ have to navigate while particular attention is devoted to invocations of ‘agency’ and ‘emancipation’.

Their experience of the asylum system and (forced) accommodation in collective housing as well as their dealing with being addressed as 'refugees' stand at the project’s center. Furthermore, their "clientelization" by representatives of Social Work provides a central research theme. The investigation of the subjectivity and "everyday" experience of women addressed as "refugees" is intended to provide a more detailed understanding of their specific experience of othering (Said 1978; Hall 2004). In the tradition of pleas for a “cultural critique” (Marcus/Fisher), this study aims to challenge generalising images of ‘the refugee’, especially of young women commonly addressed as ‘refugees’, in German society.

Project team:
Prof. Dr. Martin Sökefeld (principal investigator) and Beatrice Odierna, MSc. (research associate)
Funding: German Research Foundation (SO 435/15-1)

Project Workshop (in German language):

Follow the Agency - Handlungsmacht als gemeinsames Thema
ethnologischer Forschung und Sozialer Arbeit?
Institut für Ethnologie, LMU München, 16.-17. February 2023