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Unwelcome guests: Agency on the margins, female Iraqi refugees in Amman Jordan
This dissertation focuses on women who have been displaced from Iraq, and have sought refuge in Jordan, as a result of U.S. interference in their country. During my fieldwork in Amman, Jordan, I worked alongside Iraqi women in a nongovernmental school for refugees of various origins. The relationships that I formed there showed me how Iraqi refugee women (‘refugee’ only in the eyes of the UN, labeled as simply status-less ‘guests’ by the government of Jordan) managed to not only carry on, but also progress in the face of extreme marginalization. The dissertation project shows how these women exercised agency and maintained resilience in this protracted and stifling situation. Through a mixed methods approach, relying heavily on Critical Discourse Analysis, Oral History, Forced Migration, and Feminist methodology, I analyze a selection of women’s life-stories to address the following questions: 1) How do urban, female, Iraqi refugees exercise agency, and remain resilient in the face of stifling political and social confines? 2) How does the label of ‘guest’ function to the detriment of Iraqi refugees in Jordan? 3) How do urban, female, Iraqi refugees settle in Jordan without legal status? The dissertation foregrounds women’s ingenuity, despite being part of an urban, marginalized, ‘guest’ population in Jordan. In the face of uncertainty, discrimination and adversity, they adapt to the frustration of their displacement. They struggle against multiple layers of constraints, and limitations. Yet, they “….carve out a space under adverse conditions not simply by reacting to unfavourable state policies and practices but also through creative engagement and mobilization of social networks in search of viable livelihoods…against all odds” (Fábos and Kibreab 2007: 3).