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Humanitarian Pluralism: The Arctic Passage in an Age of Refugees

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 April 2016

Nefissa Naguib
Affiliation:
Department of Social Anthropology, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway; e-mail: nefissa.naguib@sai.uio.no
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Extract

As I write, the Syrian migrant crisis is boiling over and the Arctic Circle has become the latest precarious route desperate Syrian refugees are braving in their pursuit of security and shelter. A young Syrian woman is interviewed on the Norwegian evening news. Earlier this year other members of her family had fled to Germany. She stayed in Syria, waiting to hear from them before setting out herself. When she finally managed to get a call through to her family, they recounted the humiliating agonies they had endured on their journey through Turkey and advised her to find another route. She decided to take the new migration route to Europe, the safer and less expensive Arctic route, as far as possible from the horrors of war. She doesn't go into the details of her long journey, other than to say that she has been hungry for a couple of years, often dizzy from hunger. As she is interviewed in the polar night, she stands in front of a building decorated with Christmas lights, a Bethlehem star in each of the windows, skinny pines covered in frost in the background, snow on the ground: “I don't mind that my ears are frozen and that I can see my breath. I want to be safe and have a dignified life. Get a proper education, work, and be able to feed myself.” The camera shows other Syrian families with young children, single men and women, and girls and boys, traveling alone. Volunteers from the “Refugees Welcome to Norway” (RWTN) association distribute warm clothes, nappies, prams, toys, coffee, tea, sandwiches, and traditional Christmas cakes.

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Roundtable
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2016 

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References

1 Quotes from RWTN are based on initial research carried out in Norway in the fall and winter of 2015, which included participant observation and interviews, as well as informal encounters. I have not given names to protect the privacy of my interlocutors. I am immensely grateful for their explanations and thoughtful answers to which I have been privy.

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4 Håland, Randi, “Porridge and Pot, Bread and Oven: Food Ways and Symbolism in Africa and the Near East from Neolithic to the Present,” Cambridge Archeological Journal 17 (2007): 165–82CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

5 Holtzman, Jon, Uncertain Tastes: Memory, Ambivalence, and the Politics of Eating in Samburu, Northern Kenya (Berkeley, Calif.: California University Press, 2009), 51Google Scholar.

6 Levinas, Emmanuel, Humanism of the Other, trans. Nidra Poller (Champaign, Ill.: University of Illinois Press, 2003)Google Scholar.

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8 Bourdieu, Pierreet al., The Weight of the World, trans. Priscilla Parkhurst Ferguson (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1999)Google Scholar.

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