Mobile Lives, Humanitarian Regimes of Care and the Seductive Myth of Australian Equality

Stream: Panel 94 - Human Rights & Democracy: Elusive Justice and Rights Vacuums for Mobile Populations; New Issues and Debates
Date: Wednesday, 28 September 2016
Time: 1.30 pm – 3.00 pm


Humanitarian regimes of care enacted in the transnational space, such as those explored here for the Bhutanese refugees resettling in Australia, have paradoxical and unintended consequences through the reproduction of inequalities. My paper focuses on the micro-physics of routine interactions in that ambiguous middle-ground that the Bhutanese refugees have to occupy during resettlement, where the local resettlement caseworkers enact their own fantasies of mobility that engender a form of ‘compassionate condescension’ in which the moral imperative to act is accompanied by practices of containment. The resulting sets of relations are mutually though unequally produced, which renders the refugees into new sets of relations of dependency. In this space, existential realities find expression of their past experiences curtailed and ensuing social interactions imbued with cultural and affective disjunctures. As a once disenfranchised people they have come with many a hope and dream that the new life in Australia could provide. Resettlement in Australia enacts an image of equality, but the available reality is a journey of contradictions. Navigating these spaces reveals an entanglement between different rationalities, where opportunities are limited and disciplined.


Nayana Bibile (Presenter), UNSW
Nayana researches existential realities of migrant and refugee lives, and is the research associate for the Forced Migration Research Network at UNSW. Her current research delves deeper into normative and invisible violence of the everyday and gendered racism. Her doctoral thesis was entitled: Cartographies of Resettlement: The Performativity of Containment and the Ontological Uncertainties of Certainty. The thesis elaborates on ethical imagination, subjectivity and intersubjectivity to theorise ethnography from the interstices, which highlights processes that engender what she terms ‘compassionate condescension’ enacted in routine interactions of humanitarian regimes of care. Contact: