Mutual aid amongst refugees [1st place essay + blog post]


Every year, the Canadian Association for Refugee and Forced Migration Studies (CARFMS/ACERMF) hosts a student essay contest. This contest includes two submission categories: (1) undergraduate; (2) graduate/law. Essays must be based on empirical work. For 2021, my essay was ranked 1st place in the graduate/law category. ‘Mutual aid amongst refugees: Organized abandonment and anarchic places’ is based on fieldwork conducted in Turkey and Peru between 2015-2019.


The state’s central role in creating the precarious conditions of incarceration, uncertainty, marginalization, and informality is best described as ‘organized abandonment’ (Gilmore 2007). Based on fieldwork in Turkey and Peru, this article shows how some refugees have responded to difficult material and existential conditions by creating anarchic geographic places of meaning. Where subjectivities and practices converge upon egalitarianism, autonomy, and cooperation, the ethnographic cases of refugee placemaking presented are explored through the concept of mutual aid. The observations are evocative, asking us to reflect on how reformulations of space and place as a result of organized abandonment intersect with refugee collectivities and futurities that are beyond the state.


The full essay can be read here. For a summary, CARFMS/ACERMF asked me to write a blog post, available here.