What Has Become of My Life? The Silenced Voices of Refugees in Japan, by Erdal Dogan and Tsuyoshi Amemiya. 197 pp. Paperback. Tokyo: Kinkoh Printing, 2008.
Driven From Home: Protecting the Rights of Forced Migrants, edited by David Hollenbach. 296 pp. Paperback. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2010, ISBN: 9781589016460 (1589016467).
Conceptualising "Home": The Question of Belonging among Turkish Families in Germany, by Esin Bozkurt. 243 pp. Paperback. Frankfurt and New York: Campus Verlag Press, 2009, ISBN: 9783593387918.
Refugees, Asylum Seekers and the Rule of Law: Comparative Perspectives, edited by Susan Kneebone, Monash University, Victoria. 341 pp. Hardback. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009, ISBN: 9780521889353.
Refugees who have lost their original homes often find themselves traumatically detached in their new environment despite resettlement. Under these circumstances, their natal or lost home assumes a new significance for the sense of belonging and their need for being reconnected and recognized with dignity. In the context of refugeehood, "home" is not only a physical manifestation of identity. In their country of asylum, in essence refugees try to re-establish a lost grounding by reclaiming and reconstructing their sense of belonging.
Three of the four books reviewed here conceptualize the meaning of "home" embraced by refugees and migrants in innovative ways, though they put emphasis on different aspects of the phenomenon. The picture they create proposes that there are at least four different aspects to be considered: material, spatial, socio-political and personal. Of those four, the last two assume paramount importance in the long term. Namely, for refugees in particular, the combined sense of attachment, belonging, and rightful ownership, as well as recognition or denial of past traumatic experiences inflicted by the loss of home have a direct impact on the acquisition of a sense of attachment to a new home.
In What Has Become of My Life?, for instance, Erdal Dogan and Tsuyoshi Amemiya examine the underbelly of the Japanese human rights regime and treatment of asylum seekers in Japan. In a genre that is becoming quite commonplace in the field, they collect first-hand oral narratives of refugee experiences in Japan, and how the issue of being kept in limbo for years and spending inordinate amounts of time in detention while one's refugee application is being processed renders the...