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Individual and Collective Agency and Identity Construction among South Sudanese Refugees in Adjumani District, Uganda

Sara de Simone



Refugee’s agency has been the object of a growing literature questioning victimizing narratives of powerlessness. In positioning itself in this stream, this paper explores different processes of identity production among South Sudanese refugees in Adjumani District, Uganda. Through a comparison of social dynamics in refugee settlements and among self-settled refugees, it shows that identity production is highly situational and that it can be considered as a form of agency, even though its transformative potential remains low. Acknowledging the complex relationship between structural constraints and refugees’ agency, the concept of social navigation is mobilized to shed light on refugees’ identity choices: though these do not modify structural conditions, they do contribute to creating spaces of agency that ultimately make refugee lives more secure and predictable.

Keywords: Agency, identity production, social navigation, refugees, Uganda

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