“Offshore Extractions and the Everyday Life of a Refugee Economy in the Republic of Nauru”
The Republic of Nauru occupies a prominent place in the international news. In August 2016, the small nation state found itself at the center of another global media frenzy with the Guardian Australia’s “exclusive Nauru Files leaks.” With a catalogue of over 2000 filed incident reports, Nauru’s offshore refugee operations were characterized worldwide as an exceptionality, “a dark, wretched Truman Show without the cameras.” Drawing on fifteenth months of ethnographic fieldwork conducted between Geneva, Australia, Fiji, and Nauru, this paper details the everyday life of Nauru’s offshore refugee manufacturing operations. I show how rather than a substandard operation, Nauru’s offshore system is immaculately engineered to fulfill industry “best practice.” I argue that Nauru is in fact microcosmic of the same industrial hazards that envelop refugee economies elsewhere, putting forward an approach that recognizes the systemic flaws in global refugee operations. I consider how Nauru plays an important role in recirculating value to mainland refugee economies, thus reinforcing the global validity of “the refugee” as a bodily commodity, and the same hazardous industry practices, just onshore not offshore.
About the speaker:
Julia is a Doctoral Candidate in Social Anthropology at the University of Oxford and a research student at Oxford’s Centre on Migration, Policy and Society. Her research focuses on the political economy of resource extraction, based on fieldwork on the international refugee industry. She has published in Global Networks and with Routledge publication house on global migration governance and knowledge networks.