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Interrogating community : dispersed refugees in Leeds

Lewis, Hannah, 1976


Hannah, 1976 Lewis


Gary, 1944 Craig

Stefaan Jansen


Community is a key and contested concept much used in social sciences and public policy, including asylum and immigration policies. The notion of refugee community is often utilized uncritically to apply to national, ethnic or other groups, yet the existence of 'community' cannot be assumed. Where refugee community has been addressed, studies of refugee community organizations dominate. Less attention has been given to everyday experiences of people seeking asylum, particularly those living outside London following the introduction of compulsory dispersal. This ethnography results from fourteen months of fieldwork in the major dispersal city of Leeds in the north of England, and included people from over twelve countries at different stages of the asylum process.

The research found that conditions in the country of origin and UK policies create insecurity that shape social life and affect the ways that 'community' is experienced. Policy infiltrates daily life through housing control mechanisms, shaping capacity for homemaking and affecting social relationships. In this precarious context secrecy is a vital tool in managing social life. Refugee community organizations, parties and social events form around nascent social groupings that include some and exclude others. Moving beyond recognition that divisions exist within 'communities', this research examines how boundaries operate in new UK social settings for recently-arrived refugees. Forms of familiarity and cultural reproduction are achieved through music, dancing, dress and food. Rather than simply representing 'home' culture, such practices create moments and places to contest both continuity and adaptation to the UK The central importance of food highlights the particular role of women in reproducing community - the ephemeral nature of eating and dancing enables a sense of shared values within the context of fluidity. Recently-arrived refugees do not live in a community, but engage with (or avoid) spatial and temporal realizations of community.


Lewis, H. 1. (2007). Interrogating community : dispersed refugees in Leeds. (Thesis). University of Hull. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Oct 12, 2012
Publicly Available Date Feb 22, 2023
Keywords Social sciences
Public URL
Additional Information Department of Social Sciences, The University of Hull
Award Date Jan 1, 2007


Thesis (27.6 Mb)

Copyright Statement
© 2007 Lewis, Hannah, 1976-. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

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