World Refugee Day - Belonging, without papers

Posted on Thursday, May 18, 2017

Person holding a suitcase on a quai

On World Refugee Day, Political Science PhD candidate Fiorella Rabuffetti hopes to further our understanding of the relationship between the state and people.

Her story

Fiorella Rabuffetti

After completing her B.A. in Political Science in Uruguay, where she is originally from, Fiorella Rabuffetti came to Canada to do a M.A. in Political Science at the University of Alberta.

Now under the supervision of Professors Sophie Bourgault and Emily Wills of the School of Political Studies at the University of Ottawa, she is preparing her comprehensive exams – her major in Political Thought with a minor in International Relations-- and working on her dissertation proposal.

Her motivation

One week after arriving in Canada, Fiorella lost her passport and visa. She suddenly noticed the importance she attaches to simple papers, and the one that society grants to the same documents.

It was in part this personal experience that led her further research on the subject. She was quickly captivated by author Hannah Arendt, who introduced her to the concept of statelessness. "In political science, so much emphasis is placed on the place and importance of the state. The concept that a person could be deprived of a state was completely unknown to me. "

Her research

Since then, Fiorella’s research has aimed at furthering our understanding of the relationship between the state and people. She is particularly interested in people’s experiences and feelings of belonging or not belonging. In order to better grasp this connection, she chose to look at it precisely where its existence cannot be taken for granted. What can we learn about the relationship between people and their country when that bond is broken?

This is why Fiorella is interested in the history of statelessness and the narratives of stateless persons. Her research will explore those narratives in their tensions and encounters with the stories of non-citizens who are also in a vulnerable position with respect to the state. In other words, people who have a higher risk of expulsion than other non-citizens, such as asylum-seekers and illegal immigrants, as opposed to those with refugee status or residence permits in their current country of residence.

"At the end of the day, it is important to keep talking about the situation of stateless people. The crisis in Syria has highlighted the struggles around refugeehood specifically, but what I would like to do is talk more broadly about the struggles and resilience of people who live without the protection of a state –this can include refugees, who are often stateless themselves. I would like to question the idea that stateless people are essentially powerless. All of us, regardless of our relationship with the state, are and will continue to be neighbours, and, as such, we must look at each other as being capable of accomplishing great things."


Learn more about other student research on refugees.

The University of Ottawa has created an initiative to collect donations in order to sponsor refugees.

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