How Eritreans in South Africa Talk about Their Refugee Experiences: A Discursive Analysis
South African Review of Sociology
This article reports on a study that explored how Eritrean refugees 1 in South Africa -part of a generational wave of emigrants labelled 'generation asylum' by Hepner (2015) -make sense of their refugee experience and identities, herewith referred to as interpretative repertoires. Interpretative repertoires is a concept coined by sociologists, Gilbert and Mulkay (1984) and later adopted by Potter and Whetherell (1987), to refer to the different and at times contradictory ways in which social
... ors characterise or describe a phenomenon. Five dominant interpretative repertoires were identified based on a discursive analysis of interview transcripts with ten participants living in Pretoria: (1) a 'rights' repertoire; (2) an 'embrace your refugee identity' repertoire; (3) the 'victimised refugee' repertoire; (4) the 'protected refugee' repertoire and (5) the 'criminalised refugee' repertoire. It is argued that participants deployed contradictory and yet complementary repertoires, drawing primarily on lived and imagined experiences in their country of origin and asylum as resources to give meaning to their refugee identities. These repertoires demonstrate refugees' ambivalence. It surfaces tensions they experience between South Africa's constitutional promise and their relative legal security, on the one hand, and the everyday threat of xenophobic violence and negative public sentiment, on the other.