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Transnational disruptions: materialities and temporalities of transnational citizenship among Somali refugees in Cairo

Global Networks

Published online on


Literature on both transnationalism and ‘lived citizenship’ has highlighted the multiple, fluid and simultaneous character of migrant experiences of belonging. Geographers, however, have questioned this emphasis on mobility, connections and simultaneity, regrounding research on migrant transnationalism through the study of materiality and embodiment, and pointing to the salience of temporality in defining contemporary migration and asylum regimes. Drawing on ethnographic research with Somali refugees living in Cairo, Egypt, in this article I explore the material and temporal ‘disruptions’ that mark their condition at three interrelated levels. These are the experience of ‘time suspension’ associated with maintaining transnational family connections, the uncertain temporalities characterizing the work of humanitarian agencies, and the ‘everyday emergencies’ that mark daily life in a Cairo neighbourhood. Through the heuristic lens of materiality and assemblage geographies, through the analysis I hope to offer a more nuanced account of the tension between ‘fluidity’ and groundedness in refugees’ transnational practices, as well as an appraisal of the role temporalities and materialities play in emerging forms of ‘irregular citizenship’ in the Global South.