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VIDEO DOI: https://doi.org/10.48448/mpnc-xw24


AAA Annual Meeting 2021

November 18, 2021

Baltimore, United States

Afghan lives in European refugee camps: life narratives, law(lesness), and hopes for justice. A conversation between Nataliya Tchermalykh and Alexander Ephrussi





This conversation provides an anthropological analysis of life narratives and sinuous legal trajectories of Afghan refugees on the move across Europe. It is based on first-hand ethnographic observations, gathered during two field trips to Calais (France) and to the Chios and Lesvos islands (Greece), conducted by Nataliya Tchermalykh and Alexander Ephrussi in May-August 2021. Based on several months of intense fieldwork, our conversation will provide snapshots of Afghan lives, as they move through states and continents. Navigating within the nets of local and global infrastructures of humanitarian aid, this conversation will illustrate how refugees negotiate their passage with different individuals - NGO-workers, lawyers, local populations, as well as the agents of law enforcement, cost guards, and asylum case-workers, enforcing the European borders on earth, on sea, and on paper. In late summer 2021, while the Taliban troops were advancing across Afghanistan at an unprecedented pace, we were documenting the everyday lives of Afghan refugees on the remote Greek islands (Chios and Lesvos), under a constant threat of the most dreadful forest fires in Greek history. Focusing specifically on the access to justice of refugee populations, we gathered their life narratives, opinions and accounts of the recent epidemiological and geopolitical emergencies, such as COVID-19 pandemics, Brexit, recent Franco-British and Greco-Turkish intergovernmental tensions and decisions, as well as the withdrawal of the American troops from Afghanistan. These emergencies directly affected the lives of the inhabitants of the camps and their alentours and added to the fragmentation of the already complex social fabric of the refugee lives across Europe. We left our last field site on the 15th of August - the day when the Taliban took control of Kabul. By laying the focus on social and legal trajectories of Afghan migrants across and beyond Europe, the aim of this conversation is to come to a deeper understanding of the dynamic relationship between the life narratives, the law and the space, as it is configured in European border zones, while shedding light, however indirectly, to the ongoing situation in Afghanistan. Nataliya Tchermalykh is a legal anthropologist, studying the imaginaries of law and justice in different parts of Europe, with a particular focus on the work of legal professionals, acting as interfaces between the states, the supra-state entities and the vulnerable populations. Alexander Ephrussi is a social anthropologist and a German-English-Dari translator, specializing in recent Afghan diasporas in Europe.


Transcript English (automatic)

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