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Open Access Becoming the ‘refugee’ - Creation of a gendered subjectivity among male asylum seekers in Switzerland

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Drawing on theories of subjectivity and subject formation, this article explores the social construction of the category ‘refugee’ as a subject position. It purports that the refugee subjectivity, here called ‘refugeeness’, has been inscribed with traditionally ‘feminine’ characteristics, particularly the assumption of dependence and helplessness. Based on this claim, the paper argues that through policy aimed to control the lives of asylum seekers, men who fall within this category experience a process of emasculation as they are forced to adopt the purportedly docile subjectivity of ‘refugeeness’. Through in-depth interviews with several male asylum seekers in Switzerland, this paper seeks to understand how men experience their own sense of masculinity within the Swiss asylum classification system.

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Keywords: Switzerland; asylum seekers; femininity; masculinity; refugees; subject theory

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Recent graduate of the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (IHEID) in Geneva, Switzerland., Email: [email protected]

Publication date: August 1, 2014

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  • Het Tijdschrift voor Genderstudies is het forum voor de wetenschappelijke problematisering van sekse in relatie tot andere vormen van discriminatie en uitsluiting zoals etniciteit, seksualiteit, klasse of leeftijd. Er worden artikelen in gepubliceerd over gendervraagstukken vanuit alle relevante disciplines die een wetenschappelijke bijdrage leveren aan debatten over gender en intersectionaliteit in Nederland en Vlaanderen. Het tijdschrift is een interdisciplinair medium op het kruispunt van maatschappij-, cultuur-, geestes-, gezondheids- en natuurwetenschappen. Het verschijnt vier keer per jaar en biedt wetenschappelijke artikelen en daarnaast ook interviews, boekrecensies, discussiedossiers en opiniërende artikelen in het Nederlands en Engels. Artikelen worden dubbelblind beoordeeld door externe deskundigen.

    The Tijdschrift voor Genderstudies (Journal of Gender Studies) is a Dutch language forum for the scientific problematisation of gender in relation to ethnicity, sexuality, class, and age. The journal aims to contribute to debates about gender and diversity in the Netherlands and Flanders. The journal is an interdisciplinary medium operating at the intersection of society, culture, the humanities, health and science. The editorial staff is open to articles about gender issues from different disciplines, and also accepts English articles. As well as publishing articles, the journal includes essays, columns (short topical and polemical articles), interviews, reviews, summaries of dissertations and conference reports. Articles are subjected to a double blind peer review process.
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