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Life in dispersal : narratives of asylum, identity and community

Brown, Philip (2005) Life in dispersal : narratives of asylum, identity and community. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

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    This study explores how the immigration status of the 'asylum seeker' impacts upon notions of
    'identity', 'community' and 'belonging' whilst claiming asylum in the UK. By taking a narrativedialogical
    approach this research explores the stories that have been constructed around 'asylum'
    by policy, those working with 'asylum seekers' and 'asylum seekers' themselves. This research
    looks at how the 'official' narratives of asylum are operationalised and delivered by workers
    contracted to implement government policy. The study also explores how those making a claim
    for asylum narrate their lives whilst living in dispersal sites in one region of the UK with
    particular focus paid to exploring how asylum and dispersal impacts upon 'identity' and

    The data for this project was generated in three phases. In the first phase of data generation ten
    asylum support managers participated in semi-structured interviews. These managers worked for
    local authorities in the Region planning the strategy and delivery of the National Asylum Support
    Service (NASS) policies to 'asylum seekers' accommodated locally. The second phase of the
    research also included workers involved in delivering NASS support but in a service delivery
    role. Twenty-two people from across the Region were invited to attend three separate focus
    groups. The third and final phase of the research involved the participation of ten 'asylum
    seekers', living in dispersal sites across the Region, in lengthy narrative interviews. The data was
    analysed using narrative analytical techniques informed by the work of Clandinin and Connelly
    (2000) and Riessman (2004) around thematic narrative analysis and guided by the theory of
    'dialogism' (Bakhtin, 1981).

    The research revealed that integrating a narrative-dialogical approach to understanding the
    casylum' experience has allowed space for a piece of research that appears to 'fit' into the fife
    worlds of the 'asylum seeker'. Moving toward a theoretical stance of dialogism has made it
    possible to explore an alternative way in which the production of narratives relate to both the
    personal and the social world of the individual. Rather than discounting the possibility that
    conflict and contradiction can exist in personal narratives simultaneously this research has shown
    that by taking a narrative-dialogical approach embraces the schizophrenic quality that appears to
    punctuate the narratives of exiles and 'asylum seekers'. The research has also shown that those
    contracted to operationalise and deliver NASS support to asylum seekers are not reduced to
    simple ventriloquists in the support process. Instead what has emerged are support service
    workers that take a creative and active role in interpreting their 'roles' to be conducive with the
    perceived needs of their organisation, the 'community' and the 'asylum seeker'. Narrating their
    work as a 'quest' support service workers can be seen as active and often 'heroic' in the way in
    which they act as a 'buffer' between the policies designed by NASS and the asylum seekers they
    support. By using Bakhtin's notion of authoritative and internally persuasive discourse (Bakhtin,
    1981), support service workers can be seen to be adhering to components of the 'official' or
    authoritative discourse whilst at the same time transforming other components that are not seen
    as internally persuasive. From the narrative accounts generated with 'asylum seekers' it emerged
    that conflict and contradiction appeared to confound their attempts to produce narrative
    coherence. This conflict and contradiction appeared to suggest a good deal of psychological
    tension as 'asylum seekers' attempted to narrate; feelings of belonging, the balance between
    security and uncertainty and their feelings of 'home' and identity. What appeared was a dialogical
    quality to their narrative accounts which emphasised simultaneity but due to their restricted
    inunigration status did not have the 'privilege' of being both/and. Rather what emerged was a
    dialogical structure that can be seent o be characterisedb y the tension of being 'in between' but
    being 'neither/nor'. Such a position restricts the ability to 'move and mix' (Hermans and
    Kempen, 1998) in their new milieu as they are held in stasis and limbo by the multiple voices
    spoken by the 'asylum system'.

    Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
    Additional Information: EThOS Persistent ID
    Subjects: H Social Sciences > HT Communities. Classes. Races
    Schools: School of Human and Health Sciences
    Depositing User: Graham Stone
    Date Deposited: 22 Oct 2009 14:31
    Last Modified: 28 Jul 2010 19:48


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