Refugee camps are typically perceived as militarized and patriarchal spaces, and yet the Sahrawi refugee camps and their inhabitants have consistently been represented as ideal in nature: uniquely secular and democratic spaces, and characterized by gender equality. Drawing on extensive research with and about Sahrawi refugees in Algeria, Cuba, Spain, South Africa, and Syria, Fiddian-Qasmiyeh explores how, why, and to what effect such idealized depictions have been projected onto the international arena.
In The Ideal Refugees, the author argues that secularism and the empowerment of Sahrawi refugee women have been strategically invoked to secure the humanitarian and political support of Western state and non-state actors who ensure the continued survival of the camps and their inhabitants. This book challenges the reader to reflect critically on who benefits from assertions of good, bad, and ideal refugees, and whose interests are advanced by interwoven discourses about the empowerment of women and secularism in contexts of war and peace.
The book may be ordered here: http://syracuseuniversitypress.syr.edu/fall-2013/ideal-refugees.html