Abstract

The study of refugees and other forced migrants is now a major area within anthropology, which has been able to draw on earlier sociological studies of immigrant communities and anthropological studies of labour migration and settlement in urban areas. Displacement is now seen as an endemic phenomenon that affects those uprooted, the communities that feel the impact of their arrival, governments, and the international agencies which increasingly play a major role in dealing with displacement. Uprooting and movement into new communities involve processes such as labelling, identity management, boundary creation and maintenance, management of reciprocity, manipulation of myth, and forms of social control. Uprooting also provokes loss of trust in governments and existing political leaders. It creates new diasporas with their own political interests. What happens after uprooting depends largely on whether people resettle on their own using their existing social and economic resources, are processed through agencies, or are kept in holding camps administered by outsiders. International and non‐governmental charitable organizations are major actors, whose roles are being transformed through their dealings with the displaced while at the same time they have a major impact on the ability of governments to govern. Anthropologists have both studied and tried to do something about the situation through the creation of agencies that give a voice to the displaced, such as the Refugee Studies Centre at Oxford, Cultural Survival, and the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs.

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