When the Self Becomes Other: Representations of Gender, Islam, and the Politics of Survival in the Sahrawi Refugee Camps

Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh

in Dispossession and Displacement

Published by British Academy

Published in print August 2010 | ISBN: 9780197264591
Published online February 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191734397 | DOI:

Series: British Academy Occasional Papers

When the Self Becomes Other: Representations of Gender, Islam, and the Politics of Survival in the Sahrawi Refugee Camps

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This chapter examines the ways in which the protracted Sahrawi refugee context has been represented by its political body, the Polisario Front, to its non-Sahrawi ‘audience’ in such a way as to assure continued political and humanitarian support. This chapter builds upon the recognition that the delivery of development aid is generally dependent on the capacity of the recipients to fulfil a set of non-economic conditionalities such as the creation of democratic political structures, the protection of human rights, and the promotion of gender equality. Refugees are expected to conform to the values of their sponsors. Conformity to these imposed values assuages them continued arrival of humanitarian supplies. However, such conditionalities do not necessarily lead to the modification of recipients’ socio-political structures as sponsors may expect. Rather, multiple forms of dependence on external aid and the broader political context have directly impacted the manners with which the recipients market themselves to their sponsors. In this chapter, the efforts of the Polisario Front in developing a particular representation of the Sahrawi ‘Self’ based upon the observations of its own observers form the focus of this chapter. It examines the strategies employed by the Front such as placing the Sahrawi refugee woman and solidarity movements as forefront representations of the refugee camps in order to secure external aid.

Keywords: Sahrawi refugee; Polisario Front; political support; humanitarian support; development aid; non-economic conditionalities; democratic political structures; human rights; gender equality; conformity

Chapter.  9545 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Migration Studies

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