"An outstanding contribution to the understanding of gender roles, particularly in an Islamic setting, women's studies, and the Sahrawis."—Choice
"This is a book devoted to, and is successful in, critically assessing how gender relations are constructed in and about the Sahrawi camps and are simultaneously derived from social, political, and humanitarian interactions on an international scale."—Journal of Refugee Studies
"Fiddian-Qasmiyeh's book engages critically with the literature that sees Sahrawi refugees as ‘ideal' due to their egalitarian social organization in camps, notably towards women, the lack of corruption and their ‘secular' identity."—Mediterranean Politics
Refugee camps are typically perceived as militarized and patriarchal spaces, and yet the Sahrawi refugee camps have consistently been represented as ideal in nature: uniquely secular and democratic spaces, 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 nonstate actors, ensuring 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.
Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh is departmental lecturer in forced migration at the Refugee Studies Centre, University of Oxford, where she is also junior research fellow in refugee studies at Lady Margaret Hall.
6 x 9, 360 pages, 13 black and white illustrations, 2 maps