The inter-generational politics of ‘travelling memories’: Sahrawi refugee youth remembering home-land and home-camp
Drawing on primary research conducted with Sahrawi children and youth in the Sahrawi refugee camps, Cuba, Spain and Syria between 2001 and 2009, this article explores the Sahrawi politics of ‘travelling memories’, assessing how, why and to what effect memories of both the Western Saharan home-land and of the Algerian-based home-camps ‘travel’ between older and younger generations and across geographies in contexts of ongoing mobility. I start by exploring the ways in which Sahrawi children and youth ‘inherit’ and negotiate memories of their home-land and home-camps when they are temporarily separated from their families for educational purposes. In particular, this raises the question of whether the transmission of memories in such contexts of separation takes place in spite of children's distance from their families and home-camps, or because of this. I then examine the ways in which youth's memories ‘travel’ with them to their refugee home-camps upon graduation, analysing how their memories relate to those memories prioritised both by the international community mandated to secure a political solution to the protracted conflict, and by the older Sahrawis who monopolise not only the political infrastructure in the refugee camps, but also the ‘official memory’ of home-land and home-camps alike. Overall, I argue that the transmission of memories of the home-land are complemented and at times superseded by the development of and longing for memories of youth's home-camps. As such, multiple processes of memory-making and memory-recuperating underpin diverse political commitments to a plurality of home-spaces, including both the home-land and the home-camp. Recognising the intersecting and at times conflicting nature of memories of home-land and home-camp leads us to question the implicit assumption that political mobilisation revolves around memories of the home-land alone, or that the home-land should itself be the focus of political action and change.