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Exotic others : gender and refugee law in Canada, Australia and the United States Simm, Gabrielle Anne


In this thesis I argue that race, culture and imperialism intersect with gender at the site of refugee law to produce 'racialized and exotic others.' These exotic others are refugee women whose differences from refugee decision makers in destination countries are made crucial to their refugee claims by refugee lawyers, decision makers and the system of refugee determination. I use a comparative methodology to examine the gender guidelines for refugee decision makers and selected key cases from Canada, the United States and Australia. The gender guidelines represent a human rights approach to refugee law. I critique the guidelines and relevant cases from an anti-essential ist perspective informed by postcolonial, feminist and critical race theory. My discussion is organized by contrasting 'exotic harms,' transgression of social mores and female genital cutting, with treatment of 'familiar harms', domestic violence and sexual assault. I aim to show how the distinctions between the exotic and the familiar are founded on orientalist notions about other women in other places. I seek to suggest strategies for refugee advocates, decision makers and academic lawyers to avoid perpetuating orientalist notions of other countries and other cultures. I conclude, however, that refugee law is a limited project whose solutions to the problems faced by refugee claimants can only ever be incomplete.

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