UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Interpreting narratives of no return : Canadian asylum claim decisions and the emergence of the “anti-refugee” Demian, Diana Nasr


This thesis argues that, firstly, in reading asylum claim decisions, the search for the claimant’s “narrative” must end and a search for its “interpretation” by adjudicators must begin. In endorsing such an “interpretive turn,” I seek to understand how conceptual and discursive formulations of “the refugee” and “the asylum seeker” — two figures currently imagined in contradistinction to one another through a “myth of difference” — colour how the latter is encountered and subsequently “read” by adjudicators in the hearing room. Accordingly, I engage in a close-reading of asylum claims decisions, focusing on a manifestation of the “asylum seeker” seldom invoked: a woman, fleeing a situation in the Global South not readily identified as being “persecutory,” and who frustrates our attempts at locating the 21st century’s “authentic” refugee. This latter figure is imagined to be a helpless, immobile woman, often with a child or two in tow, who suffers “legitimate” horrors and untold traumas. My reading aims to explore how the female asylum seeker that I briefly profile above tends to be read, to her detriment, against this formidable invocation of the “authentic” refugee in the hearing room.

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