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Postcolonial refugee narratives

Migration A–Z


  1. April Shemak

Published Online: 4 FEB 2013

DOI: 10.1002/9781444351071.wbeghm422

The Encyclopedia of Global Human Migration

The Encyclopedia of Global Human Migration

How to Cite

Shemak, A. 2013. Postcolonial refugee narratives. The Encyclopedia of Global Human Migration. .

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 4 FEB 2013


The 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees initially focused primarily on refugees in Europe following World War II, largely ignoring the crises of displacement and forced migration occurring through decolonization in the developing world. There is a growing body of postcolonial literature that represents the experiences of refugees across the postcolonial world after World War II. Postcolonial refugee narratives can be defined as prose narratives (novels, short stories, memoirs) by and about refugees fleeing nations of origin that have a history of European colonialism. In these narratives, the conditions of the nation of origin exist in some form of political and/or economic crisis, sometimes as a direct result of colonial rule, neocolonialism, or decolonization. Postcolonial refugee narratives represent a genre of literature that highlights the human rights issues facing stateless persons. Keeping in mind that refugees are not a monolithic group, but originate from many regions and speak numerous languages, I will address some refugee narratives written in English. Frequently associated with the “masses,” refugees are often portrayed in the media as downtrodden, voiceless victims, thus, it is important to consider how literary narratives attempt to give voice to refugees, and/or mark their exclusion from dominant discourses.


  • political asylum;
  • immigration;
  • globalization;
  • transnationalism;
  • poverty