Michael Balfour, ed. Refugee Performance: Practical Encounters (Bristol: Intellect, 2013)

Caroline Wake


‘Refugee performance’ is a wide and unwieldy category, partly because it brings together two terms and fields that are themselves contested and complex. In its narrowest sense, the term ‘refugee’ refers to: ‘[a] person who owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country’ (UNHCR 2010: 14). However, the field of refugee studies has sought to broaden this definition, firstly by tracing the history and genealogy of the definition itself, secondly by testing the boundaries of the so-called ‘five grounds’ for protection (‘membership of a particular social group’ is perhaps the most elastic), and thirdly by pointing to those subjects who find themselves in danger yet ineligible for protection. Thus in a broader sense, the term ‘refugee’ and its associated academic discourse also include asylum seekers, (internally) displaced persons, stateless persons, returnees, and forced migrants more generally.

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