Abstract

Abstract:

Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya, intended as temporary sanctuary for a few refugees from neighboring countries, marked its thirtieth anniversary in 2021. It hosts close to two hundred thousand people from more than twenty countries. Though it is becoming more and more urban, the lives of its residents continue to be a struggle between temporariness and permanence. Assumptions that camps and refugee status are temporary become entrenched, even as they endure across decades, making real permanence unreachable. To learn about the competing dynamics of such permanence and temporariness from lived experience, twenty refugees who have been living in camps for a decade or more contributed their experience to this research through oral-history interviews with myself, who has lived in Kakuma Refugee Camp for nine years. This article emphasizes that the change of the camp landscape from a bare desert to an urbanlike area because of a struggle to sustain life should not disguise the precarity and associated costs of adopting a pseudopermanence.

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