Involuntary dislocation


‘Involuntary’ 40

‘Dislocation ’ 41

The six segments of the involuntary dislocation process 42

‘Forced migration’and ‘forced displacement’ 43

Classifications of upheavals leading to migration 45

Six categories of upheavals leading to involuntary dislocation 46

Political 46

Criminality 48

Climatic 49

Environmental 50

Socio-economic 50

‘Psychosocial marginalisation'and ‘psychological exile’ 51

Concluding reflections 52

References 53

This book is about the phenomena resulting from what happens when people seek refuge in other places as a result of being exposed to various types of upheavals. This happens when these upheavals create conditions leading people to experience their home spaces as no longer safe or tenable, compelling them to abandon them reluctantly and to seek alternative, more viable spaces. Although the main emphasis is on those phenomena that are created when people are made to reluctantly abandon their homes due to political disruptions or military conflict, i.e. when they become refugees, most of what is addressed here can be applied equally to comparable occurrences when people are involuntarily dislocated due to other kinds of upheavals such as natural disasters and climatic changes, as well as various phenomena of social marginalisation, discrimination, and persecution.

It is important to emphasise that the term involuntary dislocation, as it is used in this book, is not synonymous with or equivalent to other comparable terms within the existing fields of related studies (i.e. migration, refugee, forced migration studies). Instead, it delineates and, in a modest way, inaugurates a distinct new field of investigation that is not addressed, as a whole, by any other existing approach.

The clear emphasis of involuntary dislocation (as it is argued throughout this book) is on the human experience of the phenomena associated with having to reluctantly abandon one’s home, and not on the external phenomena. This emphasis is based on the important distinction made in the preceding chapter between the objective examination of the events themselves and the wide variety of ways that the affected persons actually experience these events.

Involuntary dislocation is put forward as a descriptive, phenomenological term that merely ascertains the fact that persons, due to various forms of adversity, (a) have been made to experience their intimate spaces no longer as viable homes and, consequently, (b) were compelled to move away from these spaces and seek new, more viable ones; further, it suggests that (c) if they were to have a genuine choice, they would not have abandoned these spaces. This term does not address or specify anything else apart from this phenomenon’s three main characteristics. For example, unlike terms such as ‘forced migration’, ‘internal displacement’, ‘development-induced displacement’, etc. it does not deal with the specific causes that lead to the dislocation, the specific form or consequences of the dislocation, or anything else related to it, e.g. its severity, duration, spectrum of impact, etc.

The intention is clear. By distinguishing the phenomenon of involuntary dislocation from its associated parameters and contributing factors, we can identify it as a distinct phenomenon in its own right which needs to be understood and studied, as such, without confusing it with the nature of the imposed upheavals or with the reasons and consequences of the dislocation. Obviously, this is not to imply that involuntary dislocation occurs in a vacuum, without causes, effects, and many other contributing factors and resulting effects. On the contrary, precisely because it is always intricately connected with all its accompanying parameters, it is imperative that, first, we distinguish it from them so that we can appreciate the uniqueness of its own nature. Once this is achieved, we can then be in a better position to ascertain, more judiciously, the specificities of its connection with all the phenomena that cause and are associated with it in various ways.

Without this important distinction, confusion can be created, resulting in the constituent dimensions of this cluster of phenomena becoming entangled with it and not clearly discernible. Within this confusion, it is not possible to investigate these phenomena properly. As is the case with all scientific investigations, examining involuntary dislocation from a phenomenological perspective should enable us to appreciate its complexity, uniqueness, and totality.

Moreover, by distinguishing the nature of the phenomenon itself from its contributing factors and resulting consequences, it enables one to focus better on developing a more accurate understanding of the key elements and characteristics of this cluster of phenomena, i.e. the meanings of the concept, image, and experience of home, of having a home, of losing one's home, and of losing one’s home involuntarily, etc. Once we grasp the significance of all these phenomena in their uniqueness, it is then easier to appreciate the role of the specificities of the context of each given occurrence of involuntary dislocation, e.g. its causes, its wider political and historical contexts, the way it is presented and represented in our society, etc. (see Chapter 3).

At the outset, it needs to be reemphasised that the term involuntary dislocation has no specific legal, psychiatric, psychological, sociological, or any other technical connotation; instead, it is intended to be descriptive of the actual human experience of the phenomena that it refers to. This means that this term is not synonymous with any other specialist terms, and it cannot be used in those contexts to replace them; equally, it is argued that this term cannot be replaced by any of the other existing terms in the related academic and professional fields.

Involuntary dislocation refers broadly to two distinct but interrelated facets or moments of dislocation:

  • (a) The experience that a person, a family, or a community develops of no longer feeling home as home; this is a specific type of dislocation, of a dislodgement from the experience of ‘feeling at home' within one's own home.
  • (b) And then, the actual movement away (mainly physical and geographical but also psychological, cultural, etc.) from the spatial location that has lost the feeling of being home.

Forced migration refers only to the second moment of the process of what ‘involuntary dislocation’ addresses, and the first moment tends to be tugged along, assumed that it is somehow part of the process. However, this book argues that the ‘external’ dislocation, i.e. the actual fleeing from the physical locality of home, is not the only form of dislocation that is experienced. In addition, there is another type of dislocation that often precedes it and can be considered as the initial or primary or ‘internal' dislocation, occurring when the very sense of feeling or being at home is damaged.

It would be logical to assume that the ‘external’ dislocation always follows on from the ‘internal’ dislocation, i.e. people abandon their homes chronologically after, first, experiencing them as no longer viable (due to lack of safety, being violated in whatever way, etc.). This may be the case in some instances, possibly even in most of them, i.e. when people have time to assess their situation as untenable and then consciously decide to flee. However, this is not always the case. For example, when people are suddenly forced by armed groups to move out of their homes, it is difficult to consider these two facets of dislocation in a clear chronologically sequential order, i.e. that the ‘internal' precedes neatly the ‘external'.

Complications arise because (as it will be discussed in Chapter 5) confusing, ambivalent, and even contradictory feelings are often experienced in relation to home. The reality of the various forms of unsettledness as well as of actual feelings of unsafety and danger, along with the resulting need to reluctantly abandon home, cannot eradicate the continued sense of attachment to home. This complexity creates many difficulties, in not only the involuntarily dislocated persons themselves but also all those who encounter and engage with their predicament; these include all those who work with them but also the wider public that witness and get involved with what is reported about these events and experiences. This will be explored further below (see Chapters 3 and 4).

The rationale for introducing the term ‘involuntary dislocation’ is based on the additional following considerations.

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