Displacement is understood to create uncertainty and upheaval for the people affected by it. It is unsettling and challenging practically, in terms of security, livelihoods and legal-political status, and also has consequences for forced migrants’ social and existential understandings and well-being. But uncertainty may also offer opportunities in the form of the chance to take risks for some desired social or material outcome. This presentation sets out to identify through ethnographic insights, the particular ways and contexts in which uncertainty is constituted as a limiting or liberating factor by members of differentiated Sudanese refugee groups in Uganda. Drawing on anthropological fieldwork in refugee camps over a fifteen year period, the paper explores the linkages between the ‘uncertainty context’ and the risks experienced and managed in various ways by refugees in this setting. Refugee responses to changes over time observable in the political, security and aid contexts, are shown to have been mirrored and complicated by their ingenious and creative management of simultaneous and linked socio-cultural transformations.
Tania Kaiser is a Senior Lecturer in Forced Migration Studies in the Development Studies Department at SOAS, University of London. She is a social anthropologist with interests in forced migration, violence, conflict and gender, and in culture, aesthetics and social change. Her ethnographic work has focused on the socio-cultural and political / protection consequences of displacement for conflict affected populations of Southern Sudanese refugees in Uganda from 1996 to the present. She has carried out policy and evaluation work for a number of humanitarian organizations and consortia, in East and West Africa, and in Sri Lanka. Her work is reflected in a number of book chapters and journal articles, including in the Journal of Refugee Studies, the Journal of East African Studies and in Mobilities.