TRAFIG Working Paper No. 1

Transnational Figurations of Displacement

Conceptualising protracted displacement and translocal connectivity through a process-oriented perspective

SUMMARY: TRAFIG aims to contribute to the development of alternative solutions to protracted displacement that are tailored to the needs and capacities of displaced persons. This working paper contains our central concepts and key terms. We make use of the concept of social figurations as the theoretical foundation for our research. We understand figurations as dynamic social constellations between interdependent individuals that are produced in and through interactions and transactions. On this basis, we re-define protracted displacement as a figuration, in which displaced people’s capabilities and opportunities are severely limited for prolonged periods of time. Multiple structural forces constrain them from using their capacities and making free choices: enduring displacing forces hinder return; marginalising forces prevent local integration; immobilising forces block chances to seek a future elsewhere.

Protracted displacement is, however, much less static and fixed than commonly perceived. Displaced persons do have agency. They develop diverse strategies to cope with difficult situations and navigate through governance regimes of aid and asylum – and thereby change them. To comprehend the dynamics of protracted displacement a deeper understanding of displaced people’s perspectives, capacities and practices and an acknowledgement of their everyday lives that often transgress places and territories is necessary. Translocal connectivity and human mobility can serve as resources to cope with and move out of protracted displacement.

Developing new approaches to protracted displacement requires a move beyond the narrow frame of the conventional durable solutions (return, local integration, resettlement). A first step towards formulating alternatives, we suggest, is to recognise and effectively build upon displaced people’s own preferences as well as their local and translocal networks. A key question then is, how they use multiple interconnected pathways to enhance their protection and livelihood security.

Keywords: Protracted displacement; protracted refugee situations; refugees; IDPs; figurational sociology; translocality; connectivity; mobility; agency; durable solutions; complementary pathway

Authors: Benjamin Etzold, Milena Belloni, Russell King, Albert Kraler and Ferruccio Pastore

Cite as: Etzold, B., Belloni, M., King, R., Kraler, A., & Pastore, F. (2019). Transnational Figurations of Displacement - Conceptualising protracted displacement and translocal connectivity through a process-oriented perspective (TRAFIG working paper 1/2019). Bonn: BICC.

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