Epistemic Violence and Colonial Legacies in the Representation of Refugee Women: Contesting Narratives of Vulnerability and Victimhood

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The traditional drafting and subsequent implementation of international refugee law have been criticised for relying on a male-centric understanding of persecution. Whilst this framework has recently shifted to include a more gender-sensitive interpretation, I argue that this introduction of gender within refugee status determination has traditionally relied on narratives infused with gendered and racialised stereotypes. In particular, it relies on a ‘white saviour’ colonial narrative that perceives refugee women as vulnerable victims in need of saving. Drawing on a decolonial and critical epistemological analysis that includes both a race and gender dimension, I unpack the epistemic violence and hidden colonial legacies in the representation of refugee women in case-law. Ultimately, this article concludes with a call for reframing the legal narrative around refugee women by approaching them as political actors rather than oppressed and vulnerable subjects.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)54-73
JournalInternational Journal of Law in Context
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 26 Mar 2024

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