Congolese refugees in Rwanda constitute one of the most protracted displaced populations in the world. As durable solutions remain evasive, this article presents Congolese’ own vision for life beyond the camp. Wanting to return to peasantry, their utopian agrarian landscape is articulated as an intentional community where subsistence and autonomy exist within a common property space shared peacefully with now-landless Rwandans. By exploring the archaeologies and ontologies that lay the architectural foundations of this utopia, key assumptions are subverted – notably, that refugees in protracted exile have a limited sense of futurity, and that their return to land within rural Rwanda would necessarily lead to conflict.
Refugees; Land and peace; Rural futurity; Utopia; Critical agrarian studies; Rwanda
Congolese refugees living in camps for over twenty years imagine a post-camp future defined as agrarian and subsistence-first.
Autonomy in the form of an intentional community shared with now-landless Rwandans.
Past livelihoods in the Congo and experience of exile inform their vision for a future around land-based rural livelihoods.
Unsettles the paradigm that land and resources are cause for conflict between refugees and host communities.
Provides new ways to think about durable solutions to situations of protracted displacement.
This invited talk provides an overview of Latinx refugee movements to the United States. Through an examination of a legal and policy landscape that has shifted towards the securitization and criminalization of migration, the expansion of carceral territories and its implications on asylum is discussed. This is situated within two recent cases: (1) Central American migrant caravans, gaining prominence in 2017, and (2) the Venezuelan exodus beginning in 2015.
Parent, Nicolas. 2022. “Book review: The immigrant-food nexus: Borders, labor, and identity in North America, edited by Julian Agyeman and Sydney Giacalone (The MIT Press, 2020),” The Northeastern Geographer 18: 127-129.
Anthropologists of forced migration have advanced unique perspectives exploring identity and community as they relate to space. With its critique of naturalized conceptions of rootedness, boundedness, and territorialization, anti-sedentarism stands as an important conceptual development emanating from this work. And while expressions such as ‘sedentary bias’ and ‘sedentarist thinking’ are found throughout this body of literature, anti-sedentarism per se has not received a proper treatment of its disciplinary underpinnings and intellectual horizons. This article identifies some of the genealogical traces of anti-sedentarism, discussing it through anthropological contributions in both the cultural and mobility turns. Informed by the work of anthropologists of forced migration, a working definition of anti-sedentarism is provided, followed by a critical discussion on key debates related to this concept. A selection of migrant and refugee ethnographies produced during the mobility turn (1990s onward) is then used to explore the extent which anti-sedentarism has translated to the empirical work of anthropologists and ethnographers engaging with displacement, dispossession, and deterritorialization.
Parent, Nicolas. 2022. “Anti-sedentarism and the anthropology of forced migration,” Suomen Antropologi: Journal of the Finnish Anthropological Society 46, no. 2: 10-29. DOI: https://doi.org/10.30676/jfas.v46i2.110269
This preliminary work exploring field data at Mahama camp, Rwanda, was presented at the 2022 conference of the American Association of Geographers, as part of the ‘Territorializing Memory’ panel organized by Miranda Meyer and Stefan Norgaard.
For the most part, Congolese refugees at Mahama have been living within this camp since the mid-1990s. In recounting their memories of past homes, lives, and relationships, these stories are often described through the language of territory. In linking their past to future aspirations of an eventual return, time and space intimately intersect, where territory as defined through memory practices surviving the test of time are formulative to refugees’ claims, hopes, and grievances du jour. In other words, memory practices produce a sense of territory amongst refugees despite their geographic separation from these physical and imagined places. Meanwhile, the territorial landscape of North Kivu – their place of origin – has undergone radical transformations as a result of armed conflict and resource extraction. Thus, the nexus of memory and territory as expressed by refugees who contemplate return is at odds with present day geographic conditions in return areas. This paper explores this tension, drawing on field data collected with Congolese living at Mahama refugee camp, Rwanda. It explores how these refugees negotiate the tension between memorialization and territorialization when discussing their desired and imagined futures of return. As peacebuilders, Congolese government, civil society, and other local stakeholders participate in the brokering of new peace landscapes in the Congo, this research shows that refugees wishing to return also lay territorial claims. In order for their return to be successful, this research asks these actors to consider the importance of forced migrant geographies of memory in their operational territorially-oriented mandates.