May 2019



Red threads in stories of displacement



Now that the stories of refugee and migrant women have been collected and archived, I can look back on them, chart their geographies, follow trails of their historicity and try to unravel some red threads that are interwoven in their entanglement. These are stories of multiple locations and their roots or rather rhizomes are spread in many places, including Afghanistan, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Congo, Iran, Kurdistan, Kuwait, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Syria, Turkey, Yemen and Zimbabwe.


The women’s ages range from 20 to 60 plus, but the majority of these stories —16 out of 22— come from women between 20 and 40 years old. They told their stories as single women, mothers, daughters, widows, sisters and most of the times their position within different kinship systems was complicated, undecided, contested and in the process of becoming. Most of the young women were relatively well educated, but their educational trajectories were of course broken and interrupted and so were their careers prior to their entanglement in the mobility assemblage of our times. Employment pathways include artists, domestic workers, civil servants, farmers, hairdressers, hospitality services, NGO volunteers, nurses, scientists, teachers, translators and university students.


Migrant and Refugee women’s lines of flight have deterritorialized them from harsh patriarchal, capitalist and colonial regimes and they all share a passion for educating themselves and for making new beginnings. Many of the women who participated in my research told me in no uncertain terms that they wanted to tell their story, so that their experiences would not be lost, that they wanted to shout out loud to the world about Who they are. In doing so they felt they connected with other women in overcoming difficulties and in joining in solidarity and struggle. In the words of a refugee woman who fled an oppressive political regime, becoming a political exile when she was only 19 years old:

I really needed to share my story with someone and I wanted to thank you for listening to me and I just expressed everything in the story.


Please reference as : Maria Tamboukou (2019) ‘Diffractions, May 2019,