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Voicing refugeeness: Sudanese struggles for belonging in Egypt and Israel

Pauline Brücker
p. 95-123


This article examines the mobilization strategies used by asylum seekers and statutory refugees to counter restrictive asylum policies that deprive them of their legal status – and therefore of any political affiliation. It examines two cases of mobilization of Sudanese asylum seekers: the Mustapha Mahmoud mobilization in Cairo, Egypt (2005) and the March for Freedom, followed by various demonstrations, in Israel (2013-2014). The use of a "voice" strategy clearly reveals a decision to make a group visible and to go against orders from the powers that be to remain silent, or even invisible. The exclusion faced by asylum-seekers as a result of the denial of the right to refugee status is an initial resource that federates the individuals concerned and allows them to form a social group that shares mutual interests. This mobilization then seeks to reverse the stigma created by restrictive asylum policies (economic migrants usurping the system in the Egyptian case, and infiltrating it in the case of Israel). This reversal of stigma requires discursive strategies and a specific staging of mobilization that involves international systems of protection, international refugee and human rights laws, and the responsibilities of the UNHCR and States. The repression of the two movements by the Egyptian and Israeli security forces respectively led to a shift from a "voice" to an "exit" strategy, in which mobility seems to embody both an exit route from an aborted mobilization and a gateway to a new potential foundation for political affiliation. The article also examines the potentially transnational scope of the protest struggles of asylum seekers.

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Exclusion from belonging: a resource for mobilization
Reversing a stigma: Self-staging and visibility of refugeeness
Sit-in and marches: symbolism in repertoires of action and spatiality as a resource
Building refugeeness as a collective front
The temptation of an exit: mobility as a form of contestation
Leaving Egypt for Israel
Leaving to “voice” elsewhere? The difficult transnational reinvestment of mobilization
Leaving Israel for Egypt

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In the study of social sciences, the profile of the refugee has long shared one common feature, despite its legal and social disparities: deprivation of the political and civic rights that are reserved to national citizens (Arendt, 2010). Refugees evolve within the interstice of nation-states, as they no longer fully belong to their home state and do not yet belong to a new host state (Haddad, 2008). They do not legally belong to any political community: seeking asylum is precisely a quest for a transfer of belonging from a state of origin that is unable to provide protection to a new – and as yet uncertain – state of adoption. Refugees therefore remain confined to forms of social invisibility in both states, as their actions are rendered invisible by the power structures (Sayad, 1999). Indeed, for Ataç et al., “invisible politics emerge out of everyday practices in the context of border and integration regimes. (…) Such political practices are invisible as they are not ...

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Electronic reference

Pauline Brücker, « Voicing refugeeness: Sudanese struggles for belonging in Egypt and Israel », Égypte/Monde arabe,Troisième série, 15 | 2017, Online since 05 June 2019, connection on 18 January 2018. URL : ; DOI : 10.4000/ema.3671

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About the author

Pauline Brücker

PAULINE BRÜCKER est doctorante au Centre de Recherches Internationales (CERI-Sciences Po), doctorante associée et ex-allocataire au CEDEJ (Le Caire/Khartoum). Diplômée en sociologie politique et en droit international public (Sciences Po Paris), ses travaux de sociologie des migrations portent sur les processus et acteurs de la construction du statut de réfugié comme catégorie sociale ainsi que sur les interactions entre systèmes d’asile et mobilisations sociales des communautés migrantes et des sociétés civiles. Sa thèse de doctorat, dirigée par Catherine Wihtol de Wenden, étudie le cas des demandeurs d’asile soudanais en Egypte et en Israël.

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