Friday, November 1, 2013

Holzer: What Happens to Law in a Refugee Camp?

Elizabeth Holzer (Univ. of Connecticut - Sociology) has published What Happens to Law in a Refugee Camp? (Law & Society Review, Vol. 47, no. 4, pp. 837–872, December 2013). Here's the abstract:
How do people living in a refugee camp engage with legal practices, discourses, and institutions? Critics argue that refugee camps leave people in “legal limbo” depriving them of the “right to have rights” despite the presence of international humanitarian actors and the entitlements enshrined in international law. For that reason, refugee camps have become a highly visible symbol of failed human rights campaigns. In contrast, I found in an ethnography of the Buduburam Refugee Camp in Ghana, West Africa, that although people living as refugees faced chronic insecurity and injustice, they engaged extensively with several different facets of the law. I illuminate three interrelated dimensions of their experiences: (1) their development as international legal subjects; (2) their alienation from domestic legal institutions; and (3) their agency within the legal field. The article contributes to the research agenda on law in humanitarian settings an empirically grounded account of the subjective dimensions of legal alienation and mobilization in a refugee camp. More broadly, it contributes to international human rights debates by theorizing a mixed outcome of international human rights campaigns: the emergence of wards of international law, people deeply embedded in the international legal system, but alienated from local law.