"On our way": identities and representations of African women seeking asylum in Ireland

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Fernando, Nilmini M.B.
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University College Cork
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This thesis provides the first explicit Postcolonial study of asylum in the Irish context that integrates Black Feminist analyses of intersectional identity with Postcolonial Feminist theories of representation. African women seeking asylum in the Republic of Ireland were key political instruments used by the state to re-draw racial lines. The study examines how, for a group of African women “On their Way” through asylum, identity and representation work hand in hand to force identities, subaltern spaces and bodies to occupy them. Rich biographical data is gathered through mixed art and drama methods over two intensive participatory research projects conducted in a small Irish city. Data analysis critically examines the poetics (practices that signify) and politics (the powers that govern these practices) and affective economies of global and local NGO visual representations, exposing how they consume, fragment, and appropriate African women’s identities and bodies. Though hypervisible, the women themselves “cannot speak”. The women in the study reported feeling “tired” and “used”. Asking “What work are they doing as they do asylum?” the study finds that black female identities and bodies are forced to perform political, cultural, emotional and material labour on their way through this context of Irish asylum. The author argues that Postcolonial Asylum is a performative encounter that re-scripts colonial race/class/gender discourse through a humanitarian alibi to naturalize European/white supremacy, reinscribe patriarchal power and justify racialised incarceration of bodies seeking asylum in the North. This study takes an interdisciplinary approach that centralizes Black and Postcolonial Feminist theory and innovates Participatory Art-Based Action methodology. Black and Postcolonial feminisms can recognize, theorize and replenish black female political and intellectual agency. Participatory Action research, if grounded in Black feminist epistemology and ethics, can allow participants to “speak back” to what is already said about them in spaces of convivial self-representation.
Asylum , Drama , Intersectionality , Participatory , Decolonial , Whiteness , Postcolonial feminism , Arts based research , Race and gender , Visual representations of black women , Cultural appropriation , Decolonizing methodology , Postcolonial encounters
Fernando, N. M. B.. 2016. "On our way": identities and representations of African women seeking asylum in Ireland. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.
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