Becoming part of the city: local emplacement after forced displacement



For refugees, arriving in a new place is inherently emotional – fraught with experiences of disorientation and fear of the unknown – but it can also be liberating and result in new connections. This article explores a series of questions around how forced displacement is experienced and turned into local emplacement. It is argued that it is important to recognize that global migration is grounded through attention to the ways in which such processes are locally lived and produced. I acknowledge that, on arrival, forced migrants become entangled in an infrastructure – laid out for them as a special category of migrants – that is directing them towards certain institutions and places; however, at the same time, I argue that this is not the only infrastructure which they use and explore. Starting from the issue of how refugees themselves try to build connections and find their way in a new city enables the exploration of potential overlaps, gaps and tensions between the official response to arrival and the everyday lived experiences of refugees. The city as a whole is explicitly taken as the unit of analysis in this article, without limitations to specific places dedicated to refugees or specific neighbourhoods where it is known that refugees arrive and/or are housed. It is argued that a focus on public and semi-public spaces is important as it allows an exploration of spaces that are meaningful to refugees and might result in new insights on connections or disconnections with already existing infrastructures. This approach offers more room for the unexpected – but also the mundane and the everyday – which all play an important part in the production of a counter-narrative against the formal and institutionalized way of framing the arrival of refugees in which refugees’ own experiences are the more central focus.

Research Papers



How to Cite

van Liempt, I. (2023). Becoming part of the city: local emplacement after forced displacement. Fennia - International Journal of Geography, 201(1), 9–22.