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Everyday discourses of belonging of first-generation Eritrean refugees in South Africa: lived experience and attachment*

Amanuel Isak Tewolde

Abstract

Research is scant on the everyday sense of belonging of refugees in South Africa. This paper addresses this gap by exploring the everyday discourses of belonging of Eritrean refugees in South Africa. Purposive sampling technique was used to recruit participants, and qualitative data was gathered from 11 participants in the City of Tshwane, South Africa, through open-ended interviews and focus group discussions. Analysis of data resulted in three dominant discourses: 1) ‘we feel like outsiders’; 2) ‘we are neither here nor there’; and 3) ‘South Africa is home’. Drawing on the participants’ discourses, I argue that in the South African context, refugees’ sense of belonging tends to be varied mirroring multifaceted lived experiences. Participants’ construction of South Africa as their home also counters previous research that portrayed foreign nationals in South Africa as ‘excluded’.

* This article is based on research conducted at the University of Pretoria, South Africa.

Keywords

Eritreans; belonging; South Africa; refugees; discourse

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