My name is not ‘asylum seeker’

av Mette Louise Berg | apr 2024 | Chapters

My name is not ‘asylum seeker’: Countering silencing, unhearing and labelling in the UK asylum system through co-research 2023 By Mette Louise Berg, Eve Dickson, Faith Nyamakanga and Nelson Gómez, in Claire Cameron, Alison Koslowski, Alison Lamont and Peter Moss (eds) Social research for our times: Thomas Coram Research Unit past, present and future London: UCL Press

These are difficult times for those seeking sanctuary across the Global North. We only rarely hear their voices, not because they cannot speak, but because asylum policy is framed in such narrowly defined terms as to dehumanise and cast those seeking refuge as a ‘burden’ (Jeffers, 2012; Darling, 2016; Abby et al., 2021). As Arundhati Roy has remarked ‘there’s really no such thing as the “voiceless”, there are only the deliberately silenced, or the preferably unheard’ (Roy, 2004). Deliberately silencing and unhearing combine with acts of labelling as powerful political and bureaucratic tools through which ‘a client group’, here asylum seekers, are defined (Zetter, 1991: 44). The act of labelling inevitably entails stereotyping, delinking, and control (Zetter, 1991). In this chapter, we tell a different story, one that centralises the experiences and voices of people in the asylum system. Drawing on ethnographic co-research, we focus on the challenges those seeking asylum face, and the insights they provide into the damaging powers and effects of silencing, unhearing and labelling.

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