Smith, Kate (2013) 'Stories told by, for and about women refugees'. In: Women's Stories, Women's Lives. A Feminist Research Symposium. In: A Feminist Research Symposium, 8th March 2013, University of Huddersfield. (Unpublished)

In making sense and meaning of our lives, we all engage in telling and retelling stories. These stories are broadly social and relational accounts, located both historically and culturally. The UK is cluttered by stories about ‘refugees’. Enduring and dehumanising narratives have emerged with the ceaseless vilification of people seeking asylum and refugees. These narratives have been the basis by which politicians gain popular votes when they seek to address public opinion and concern about the ‘problem’ storied around the asylum seeker, legitimising ‘moral panic’, hostility and rejection. Stories about asylum seekers seem to be one of the hottest stories to be told and re-told, defining and labelling women ‘bogus’, ‘genuine’, ‘victim’. Yet these stories, told about asylum seekers, can be very different from the stories which people seeking asylum tell about themselves raising questions about narratives told by, for and about women seeking asylum: how narratives are constructed; who constructs them; whose interests are served by certain representations; and how different narratives complement or conflict with one another. This paper explores the in-depth narratives of women seeking asylum in the UK and looks at how far women’s narratives challenge public and policy perceptions of the ‘refugee experience’ or ‘imaginary refugee’. The narrative approach used in this study resists the ‘essentialising, generalising or universalising’ of refugee narratives and attempts to ground academic activity in practical struggles of women’s lives.

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