Seeking Asylum in Disparate Regimes of Fear, Truth and Hope: Reflections from the Fields
Reflecting on the U.S. and Malaysia as fieldsites, we will discuss the way asylum-seekers have to perform for the authorities who they are and why they should qualify for asylum. Once Central American asylum-seekers enter the U.S. through the Southern border they are locked up in immigration detention centers where they are held until they pass their Credible Fear Interview with an asylum officer. In this interview they must “convince” the officer that their fear to return to their country is “real” or they will be deported. In Malaysia asylum-seekers have to tell their story to a UNHCR registration officer, who checks their details against a database for accuracy and consistency. Both of us work with asylum-seekers to better understand these processes. Sara also volunteers with an organization that does advocacy work for asylum-seekers, such as coaching asylum-seekers on how to pass their interview. We critique our own positionality and how our work can both destabilize governmental discourses and cement them. Thus we investigate how our own research and advocacy work to “help” may undermine broader structural goals, such as border abolishment and the recognition of refugee rights.
About the Presenters
Dr. Gerhard Hoffstaedter is a senior research fellow (DECRA) in anthropology in the School of social science at the University of Queensland and works with refugees in Malaysia.
Sara Riva is a PhD candidate at Women’s, gender and sexuality studies department at Ohio State university conducting research with Central American asylum-seeking women at the U.S.- Mexican border.