Journal Article

Disjunctures in Labelling Refugees and Oustees

Published on 1 June 2007

Uprootedness and forced displacement, due to conflict, persecution or even ‘development’, are conditions that characterize the lives of millions across the globe. The international development community has largely been concerned with refugees crossing borders to flee persecution,4 violence, impoverishment and brutal regimes. But less attention has been paid to displaced populations that experience refugee-like status in their own countries for similar reasons or those displaced as a consequence of infrastructure projects such as mines, dams and roads, often known as ‘oustees’. This chapter examines the prevailing labels that are used in refugee and oustee contexts by revisiting questions such as who is a ‘refugee’, who is an ‘oustee’, what does it mean to be displaced, or even the more fundamental question of what violence, persecution and protection mean to the refugee or oustee. Introducing such enquiry to both oustee and refugee issues has the potential to overturn the injustices encountered by refugees and oustees, while protecting them from the violations of basic rights that they encounter almost daily. It can also award them with agency to shape their own life-choices around settlements, livelihoods and social networks in their new homes.5 Why is it important? Ignoring the complexities of labelling refugees and oustees can only lead to increased resistance on the part of displaced people and the failure to integrate them into wider developmental efforts.


Jaideep Gupte

Research Fellow

Lyla Mehta

Professorial Fellow

Publication details

published by
Gupte, J. and Mehta, L.
Moncrieffe, J. and Eyben, R.


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