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Arendt Studies

Volume 3, 2019

Katy Fulfer, Rita A. Gardiner
Pages 25-47

Refugee Resettlement, Rootlessness, and Assimilation

We explore how a refugee’s experience of rootlessness may persist after they resettle in a new country. Drawing primarily on “We Refugees,” we focus on assimilation as an uprooting phenomenon that compels a person to forget their roots, thereby perpetuating threats to identity and the loss of community that is a condition for political agency. Arendt presents assimilation in a binary way: a person either conforms to or resists pressures to conform. We seek to move beyond this binary, arguing that the performative quality of the “right to have rights” (Butler and Spivak, Who Sings the Nation-State?; Gündoğdu, Rightlessness in an Age of Rights; Sari, “An Arendtian Recognitive Politics”) and the notion of dwelling in-between worlds (Ortega, In-Between: Latina Feminist Phenomenology, Multiplicity, and the Self) reveal possibilities for a refugee to assimilate in some ways while reinforcing their rootedness. What emerges from our argument is an Arendtian account of assimilation that offers an alternative picture of navigating assimilation than that captured by the binary between parvenu/conscious pariah.

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