Table Topics “Invisible Refugees”

Sanaa Alimia (photo: private)

Sanaa Alimia (photo: private)

Sanaa Alimia is a research fellow at the Zentrum Moderner Orient in Berlin. Her research interests involve oral histories of Afghan refugees and urban poor residents in Pakistan.

The push and pull of capital, and even war-making, has meant that historically the ability and willingness to traverse borders exists, says Sanaa. In the current neoliberal age, possibilities to navigate this are explicitly encouraged by the economic market and the numerous multinational corporations complex, even if the nationalist and xenophobic rhetoric that is espoused by political parties, governments, military regimes, and regional institutions indicate otherwise.  However, explicit and public encouragement and a revering of migrants is reserved only for certain upper and upwardly mobile middle classes, which is also intersected by racialized superstructures.

At the WeberWorldCafé „Refugees in the City“, Sanaa will explore how for migrants of a lower class, particularly refugees, undocumented migrants, and those with less variants of contextually relevant social, cultural, religious, and of course economic capital, the possibilities of navigating borders are restricted, stigmatized, and always couched in a language of ‘being temporary’. This is despite the fact that very often these migrants form a crucial backbone of the formal and informal labour and other economies in their ‘host’ societies, states Samia. Historically, for example ‘guest workers’ played a key role in the economic recovery of post-World War II Europe. In more recent years, documented and undocumented labour migrants were critical in the urban, social, and economic transformation of the Gulf Middle East. Whilst in the global South and so-called post-colony of  Pakistan, a state Sanaa focuses on, it has been refugees, undocumented migrants, as well as rural-urban migrants that have formed the backbone of urban development projects. Very often, however, these voices ignored and silenced – both in discursive practices as well as material and socio-economic redistribution, such as access to political rights, education, resources, food, and infrastructures. Using oral testimonies collected during her research Sanaa will discuss with the participants of the WeberWorldCafé who ignores these voices and why? And she asks how do people seek to navigate out of these various forms of marginalisation?


Max Weber Stiftung

The Max Weber Foundation promotes global research, focused on the areas of social sciences, cultural studies and the humanities. Our research is conducted at ten institutes in various countries across the globe with different and independent fields of focus. Through our globally operating institutes, we are able to contribute to the communication and networking between Germany and our host countries or regions. By promoting academic dialogue and merging academic and non-academic employees from several countries with different cultural backgrounds, the Max Weber Foundation is able to strengthen the internationalization of research.

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