Experiences of Escape and Displacement As Cognitive Resource – Children’s Worlds in Refugee Shelters

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 15:45
Oral Presentation
Karla VERLINDEN, University of Cologne, Germany
The perspective on refugee experiences – or refugee minors in particular – is often perceived deficient in social respects. Considerably because of their (frequently generalized as ‘traumatic’) experiences of escape as well as the encounters prior to and after their escape, they are being diagnosed with psychological difficulties. Terms such as ‘resilience’ and ‘coping strategies’ among children and adolescents are mostly absent.

Purpose and first results of a postdoctoral project will be presented.

This project deconstructs the concept of the ‘traumatized refugee minor’. Narrative interviews and questionnaires conducted with and replied by the subjects themselves are supposed to lead to a perception of gathering cognitive resources and potentials rather than conditions of psychological strain. The sample consists of twenty refugee children between six and ten years old, who were accommodated in emergency shelters in Cologne, Germany. At the time of the interview, the children and their dependents had no residence permit.

The interviews show, that the refugee children consider themselves as strong and with a high adaptability, regardless of age and gender. They are mostly optimistic – even if they live in a refugee shelter without any prospect right of residence. The often proclaimed psychological instability is questioned by the collected data.

Considering the right balance between qualitative and quantitative methods, the questionnaires allow additional ‘standardization’ of the collected ‘structures of meaning’.

So far refugee minors have well been discussed about instead of talked with. Mentioned narratives give them a chance to be part of the discourse and pave the way to higher presence and reinterpretation.