The Violent Imaginaries of Voluntary Repatriation: Young-Adult Refugees' Perceptions on Return to Burma (Myanmar)
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This thesis challenges the common conceptions of voluntary repatriation by demonstrating the dynamic and complicated nature of refugees’ return decision-making through an in-depth case study of young-adult Burmese refugees in Thailand. While along the Thai-Burma border pressures that promote ‘voluntary’ repatriation increase, the different reactions among refugees are striking, and the perspective of youth has long been overlooked. In order to capture and comprehend these different reactions and perceptions, this thesis applies a discursive approach by applying of the analytical frame of violent imaginaries, as developed by Schröder and Schmidt, to show how different perceptions on return come about. Through this lens, this thesis has shown that because the young-adult refugees were often born and raised in Thailand, their detachment from ‘home’ influences their perceptions on return, and returning ‘home’ is not a natural step. Moreover, this thesis demonstrates that refugee youth overcome the image of refugees as ‘passive victims’ as they are active manufacturers of content, contention and contestation, most notably through social media. As a result, this thesis confirms that perceptions are crucial in understanding motivations for return, and that violent imaginaries, albeit amended, are useful concepts through which the complexities of return can be uncovered.