Constructing New Realities in Dzaleka : Exploration of Power and Agency in Dzaleka Refugee Camp, Malawi
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The purpose of this research is to explore power and agency within refugee camps. To do so, this paper surveys relevant literature overviewing broad institutions that manage displacement, and then centers the conversation on more localized texts on refugee camps and lived experiences of camps. Research was organized with people living in Dzaleka Refugee Camp, Malawi and participants shared their knowledge and stories to explain their relationships with various camp authorities and how they practice personal agency and communal power through complex social, political and economic networks. This study finds Refugee Camps to be exceptional spaces where the humanitarian government holds great authority over those living there; yet, residents of refugee camps retain agency, as expressed in their complex navigation of social, economic and political impediments that come with the politicization, categorization and policing of their bodies. In this work, I investigate expressions of agency and the power potential as demonstrated by the residents of the Dzaleka Refugee Camp, I argue that for the members of Dzaleka Refugee Camp, the primary forms of expression were in their creation of new community and familial support networks, religion, and various entrepreneurial ventures that at times extended beyond Dzaleka's regulated borders. Finally, findings are framed in the broader context of the works of Agier, Giddens, Arendt and Agamben.