Smith, Kate (2017) Rethinking stories of migration with children, women and families. In: Centre for Applied Childhood, Youth and Family Research, Annual Conference 2017. Improving lives: making a difference with childhood, youth and family research., January 2017, University of huddersfield. (Unpublished)

The recent so-called European refugee ‘crisis’ has once again posed a critical narrative issue concerning international human migration and mobilities, about the stories told about women, children and families on the move across nation borders. The political, legal and socially defined terms of ‘asylum seeker’, ‘refugee’ and ‘immigrant’ have increasing become a salient marker of ‘unwanted’ and vilified populations. In this paper I suggest that if you look at migration and mobilities through a narrative lens you start to question some of the dominant narratives and key concepts used for making sense of migration in relation to women, children and families. Drawing on my ESRC funded research with women seeking asylum, I outline the multiple ways in which women affirm, negotiate, contest and resist dominant narratives through their storytelling. My analysis explores stories of activism, organised resistance and building resistance; accounts of indirect resistances; and stories of endurance in the face of powerful constraints and abuses. Ultimately I suggest that we need borders for making sense of stories, but I argue for new narrative borders that are flexible and expansive; open borders that in turn will create the possibilities for people to tell their own different stories. I argue that whether the borders open or not, women seeking asylum are already tell new stories, shifting and expanding the narratives of our times.

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