Producing solidarity : a settlement strategy of the Karen refugee community in Brisbane, Australia

Bird, Jessica Nancy, Brough, Mark K., & Cox, Leonie (2012) Producing solidarity : a settlement strategy of the Karen refugee community in Brisbane, Australia. In Nocker, Manuela & Pearson, Geoff (Eds.) Ethnographic Horizons in Times of Turbulence, 29 – 31 August 2012, University of Liverpool Management School, Liverpool. (Unpublished)


This paper explores the link between experience and context. It places the lived experiences of Karen refugees during settlement in Brisbane, Australia within the socio-political context of Burma, or particularly the historical context of persecution. Two key events – the Wrist-tying Ceremony and the Karen New Year – provide a link between experience and context. The findings of this study show a community strategically at work in a new and ongoing settlement process. This process pays respect to the complexities of cultural integrity whilst also engaging with the challenges of integration. The complexities are local (in terms of cultural, linguistic and religious diversity), national (maintaining a broader sense of community that includes linkages across Australia, as well as an engagement with the Australian socio-political context), and transnational (participating in a global Karen community). This transnational community encompasses Karen settling elsewhere in the world, Karen in refugee camps neighbouring Burma, and Karen living inside Burma. This paper argues that substantial “identity work” is involved in Karen settlement. The two key community events are useful vignettes of this identity work. Both events demonstrate how Karen cultural practices can meaningfully negotiate deeply historical ideas of Karen identity with contemporary challenges of settlement. In addition, they set out a version of settlement that departs from traditional settlement constructs; they show how the lived experience of settlement is messy, complex and dynamic, and not reflective of the neat, idealistic models that immigration policy and settlement theory project.

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ID Code: 53573
Item Type: Conference Paper
Refereed: No
Keywords: Karen refugees, settlement, Burma, transnationalism, solidarity, community
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY (160000) > ANTHROPOLOGY (160100) > Social and Cultural Anthropology (160104)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY (160000) > DEMOGRAPHY (160300) > Migration (160303)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2012 [please consult the author]
Deposited On: 13 Sep 2012 03:01
Last Modified: 23 Jun 2017 20:41

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