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This paper argues that the administration of refugee camps and humanitarian aid by refugees facilitates the creation of a national identity. In doing so it asserts that: camps are loci for the creation of collective narratives about their residents, administrative authority and economic control enable a power elite to gain asymmetric authority in a relational field, and nationalism meets the new elites’ need for legitimacy in the context of “traditional” narratives and provides a unifying “vision of the future”. This paper explores the specific sources and manifestations of Saharawi nationalism, including the construction of nationalizing structures by the Polisario elite and the impact of those structures on the Saharawi population. It concludes with the implications of this work for research on nationalism, refugee camps, and the Sarahawi.

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Working paper


Refugee Studies Centre

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