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Tue, 05 Mar


Humanities Building - Room H0 1.73

The refrigerator will stay: Sahrawi youth and the tensions of future immobility

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The refrigerator will stay: Sahrawi youth and the tensions of future immobility
The refrigerator will stay: Sahrawi youth and the tensions of future immobility

Time & Location

05 Mar 2024, 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm

Humanities Building - Room H0 1.73 , 10 Chittaway Rd, Ourimbah NSW 2258, Australia

About the event

Link to view the recorded seminar here: Randi Irwin Seminar 

Password: 8zSy.!h1


This seminar examines the centrality of credit and capital in the context of the Sahrawi struggle for the decolonization of Western Sahara. From exile in self-managed refugee camps in Algeria, Sahrawi refugees and the Sahrawi state seek to build transferrable skills that further their preparation for sovereignty in anticipation of a return home. The Sahrawi state-in-exile participates in future-based markets in natural resource extraction to build evidence of the state’s trustworthiness as an economic partner through the development of legal, political, and economic practices that are seen as necessary for sovereignty. For other Sahrawi refugees, however, notions that credit may serve as a pathway for liberated, sovereign futures abuts their experiences of credit as entrenching immobility within the refugee camps. For youth in particular, the focus on preparing and building their skills through university degrees and work experiences is informed by the hope that they will, one day, achieve sovereignty. However, this preparation can create tensions around the present and the anticipated future as Sahrawis invest in and build lives in the refugee camps. Skills might be portable, but the focus on providing for oneself and one’s family via camp-based employment requires tradeoffs and an acquiescence to the demands of a local economy that increasingly relies upon personal responsibility. For some, this raises questions about what is lost in such a trade-off that turns focus away from the decolonization struggle and towards a struggle to be middle class. What are the demands and contradictions embedded within temporalities of credit and debt in the Sahrawi refugee camps? What are the implications of credit as a presumed pathway for “earning” sovereignty?


Randi Irwin is an anthropologist and Lecturer at the University of Newcastle. Her research is focused on the struggle for Western Sahara’s decolonization, led by the Sahrawi state in exile from a refugee camp in Algeria. She has a particular interest in the role of natural resources in mediating knowledge production, territorial rights, and formations of citizenship. Her research has been funded by the National Science Foundation (US) and has been published in The London Review of International Law, The Journal of North African Studies, and Citizenship Studies.

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