Title: Civilising Kakuma: shared experience, refugee narratives and the constitution of a community

Authors: Catherine-Lune Grayson

Addresses: Department of Anthropology, Université de Montréal, Pavillon Lionel-Groulx, C.P. 6128, succ. Centre-ville, Montreal (Quebec) H3C 3J7, Canada

Abstract: Somalis refugees arriving in the late 1990s in Kakuma, a then mostly Sudanese camp, discovered a hostile and insecure environment. At that time they did not necessarily feel part of a united community. Although they spoke the same language and shared a common nationality, they came from different places and were members of diverse families and clans. Their narratives of arrival show how they faced isolation and adversity together, established successful businesses and became the majority group in the camp, turning Kakuma into a more 'civilised place'. In this article, I argue that Somalis, and especially the younger generation, developed a broad sense of community by joining forces to tame the camp's foreign environment, as well as creating a collective narrative of this experience. While the shared experience brought people together, the collective interpretation and shaping of that experience strengthened social bonds and the feeling of interdependence, which in turn elicited an evermore consistent and mythical collective narrative.

Keywords: Somalia; Kakuma; Kenya; refugee camps; autobiographical narratives; memory; community constitution; shared experience, refugees; insecurity; host communities; social bonds; interdependence; myth; collective narrative.

DOI: 10.1504/IJMBS.2014.065066

International Journal of Migration and Border Studies, 2014 Vol.1 No.1, pp.109 - 126

Received: 19 Nov 2013
Accepted: 24 Feb 2014

Published online: 29 Oct 2014 *

Full-text access for editors Full-text access for subscribers Purchase this article Comment on this article