Media @ McGill

Lalai Manjikian - Spaces of Contention: Deconstructing Social Exclusion/Inclusion and Everyday Refugee Experiences in Montréal

Submitted by hive on

Since submitting my application for the Beaverbrook Graduate Fellowship in fall of 2008, I embarked and completed the fieldwork portion of my doctoral dissertation. This ethnographic aspect of my project consisted of interviewing individuals who once claimed refugee status in Montréal.

Upon receiving approval from the McGill Research Ethics Board to conduct qualitative research on human subjects, I began the recruitment process. My approach for recruiting research participants was primarily based on the "word of mouth" method. I started my search for participants by soliciting already existing contacts and, in the process, widened my database of contacts. This approach eventually led me to individuals who met the research criteria and were willing to discuss their experiences. Naturally, not all ten participants emerged at once. Instead, collecting interviews as part of this qualitative research was undertaken over a period of time, starting in September of 2008 and completed in early May of 2009. In the end, semi-structured in-depth interviews were conducted with a total of ten people: five women and five men from different walks of life, all living in various neighbourhoods on the island of Montréal. The countries of origin of the respondents are Algeria, Congo Brazzaville, Mauritius, Zimbabwe, Pakistan (two individuals), Lebanon, Colombia, Venezuela and Mexico. The interviews lasted on average an hour and a half and were recorded with a voice recorder. I subsequently fully transcribed the collected data for analysis. In total, this equates to approximately 12 hours of audio recordings and over 100 pages of transcribed raw data. The data was been organized, coded and analyzed.

I have also already completed the forth chapter of the dissertation, tentatively titled: The Social Inclusion of Refugees in Montréal: Spatial and Temporal Dimensions of In-betweeness.

This 53-page chapter demonstrates how refugees become social and political actors during the period of liminality they experience, while waiting for their status to be determined. By integrating interview excerpts into relevant theoretical considerations, I chart how refugees manage to carve their agency and create meaning in their lives, despite living in conditions of suspended temporality and spatial limitations as non-citizens.

My submission has been accepted and I will be presenting a summary of my findings during the Annual Student Conference at the Centre for Refugee Studies, based at York University in April 2010. The conference is entitled (Un) Routed Identities: Borders, Boundaries, and Between.