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No Return, No Refuge: Rites and Rights in Minority Repatriation

Howard Adelman and Elazar Barkan

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July, 2011
Cloth, 360 pages, 5 line drawings, 1 table
ISBN: 978-0-231-15336-2
$45.00 / £30.95

Refugee displacement is a global phenomenon that has uprooted millions of individuals over the past century. In the 1980s, repatriation became the preferred option for resolving the refugee crisis. As human rights achieved global eminence, refugees’ right of return fell under its umbrella. Yet return as a right and its practice as a rite created a radical disconnect between principle and everyday practice, and the repatriation of refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) remains elusive in cases of forced displacement of victims by ethnic conflict.

Reviewing cases of ethnic displacement throughout the twentieth century in Europe, Asia, and Africa, Howard Adelman and Elazar Barkan juxtapose the empirical lack of repatriation in cases of ethnic conflict, unless accompanied by coercion. The emphasis on repatriation during the last several decades has obscured other options, leaving refugees to spend years warehoused in camps. Repatriation takes place when identity, defined by ethnicity or religion, is not at the center of the displacing conflict, or when the ethnic group to which the refugees belong are not a minority in their original country or in the region to which they want to return. Rather than perpetuate a ritual belief in return as a right without the prospect of realization, Adelman and Barkan call for solutions that bracket return as a primary focus in cases of ethnic conflict.

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About the Author

Howard Adelman has been a research professor at Griffith University, a visiting professor at Princeton University, and a professor of philosophy at York University in Toronto, where he was founding director of the Centre for Refugee Studies and editor of Refuge.

Elazar Barkan is professor of international and public affairs and director of the Institute for the Study of Human Rights at Columbia University. He is author of The Guilt of Nations: Restitution and Negotiating Historical Injustices and editor of Taking Wrongs Seriously: Apologies and Reconciliation.

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