Abstract

Asylum protocol and legislation necessitates that a refugee's hope for survival relies on a precondition of mobility. This article interrogates methods through which refugees with physical disabilities that impair mobility maintain hope in spite of this. Through an examination of literary representations of refugees with disabilities, this article promotes a shift in how we conceive of dependence within these subjects. In this way, it challenges popular conceptions of refugees as hopeless and dependent figures. By focusing on moments of contested agency, deemed scenes of "stasis in flight," this article proposes a social model of refugeeness in which the stigmatization of dependence for all refugees is challenged through disabled refugee characters. In so doing, it draws attention to subjectivities that are problematically being ignored or misconceived in our contemporary climate.


Amidst the chaos of revolution and impending civil war, Kawsar, a Somali woman in her late 50s, needs to flee the conflict that has broken out around her home in Hargeisa. The year is 1987 and violent clashes have begun to erupt between the Somali National Army, under President Siad Barre, and National Freedom movement (NFM) rebel forces returning from exile in Ethiopia. Bodies lie in the streets as suspected revolutionaries are hunted down and checkpoints prevent Somali citizens from fleeing to safety. Healthy children are bled dry in hospitals to revive wounded soldiers as gunfire rattles through a city under siege. Kawsar, severely impaired by a broken hip and pelvis after being beaten by an officer of the regime, cannot escape the disabling environment alone. Her survival depends on the support of others and, after much protest, she is placed in a wheelbarrow lined with blankets from a bed she hasn't left in weeks. She is carried out of her home by Filsan, the female soldier responsible for her injuries, and Deqo, an abandoned orphan girl, both of whom support her as the trio flee the conflict in an attempt to survive.

During this scene of frantic escape in Nadifa Mohamed's 2013 novel The Orchard of Lost Souls, Kawsar's paralyzed body exists within a paradoxical state of what I term "stasis in flight" as she lays immobile in a wheelbarrow being wheeled by others in their flight from conflict towards presumed safety. This image of stasis in flight acts as a literary device that illustrates the state of contested agency within which Kawsar, a refugee with disabilities, exists. As a refugee, one's agency and autonomy by definition are challenged through external factors that force them from their home. The causes are diverse and oftentimes complex. For some, it is conflict-based, as military coups and civil wars breakout in entire regions, displacing large populations. For others it is more confined, such as acts of sexual violence conducted on a particular social group. It can stem from individual perpetrators while at other times it might have no living culprit, as in instances of natural disaster. Regardless of the form of persecution, a factor or number of factors converge to produce in a refugee the necessity to flee in order to survive. It is this necessity for flight, produced through a desire to live but complicated by a longing to keep one's home, that exemplifies the contested agency of refugees.

Kawsar experiences such contested agency in the above scene through the blankets underneath her that represent her attempt to hold onto the domestic space amidst her coerced flight away from it. Despite the exertion of agency to delay her flight from home for as long as possible, she must ultimately leave if she wants to live. These challenges to agency that force a subject from their home, and the attempts to resist them, indicate a tension within refugee subjectivity. The decision to survive and the acts taken to fulfill it only perpetuate this tension as refugees frequently find themselves relying on others for support due to the precarious circumstances caused by forced migration. The perceived lack of dependence in a refugee who relies on aid from empathetic individuals and organizations, or is offered the opportunity to relocate to a new environment, extends what oftentimes becomes a lifelong battle for agency. Kawsar portrays this in her reliance on Deqo and Filsan to carry her in a wheelbarrow in their escape. Her literal enactment of stasis in flight as a refugee with disabilities exemplifies the multiple experiences of stasis in flight faced by all refugees who exist in a state of contested agency. These tensions contribute to popular conceptions of refugees as perpetually dependent subjects who over-rely on the support of others, leading to disdain for and suspicion of refugee populations. Such stereotyping fails to consider the lived experience of refugees and the full extent of the circumstances they face in their struggle to survive.

In order to avoid such undue typecasting and its dangerous consequences, we need a new framework through which to understand hope and survival within the refugee with disabilities. Such a framework will alleviate popular conceptions of all refugees as being social burdens. Eleni Coundouriotis frames hope for the refugee as existing for those "who can walk out from [their] circumstances and toward a restored normalcy" (79). She makes clear that survival for such refugees is predicated upon their having the ability to mobilize themselves away from areas of conflict. While the need for relocation holds true, the specific emphasis on walking suggests that for those refugees with disabilities who are physically incapable of walking away from a situation, there is little hope for survival. Coundouriotis is clearly not arguing that walking is a precondition for survival, for she provides readings in which refugees flee by means of both truck and boat. However, her use of the word "walk" productively evokes a discussion of the methods by which refugees with disabilities maintain hope for survival. Consider Kawsar. Her resistance to the help she receives from her companions conveys an attempt on her part to destigmatize her identity as a disabled refugee. In the moments leading up to flight she protests to those preparing the wheelbarrow for her, "That's enough blankets, I am not an egg" (Mohamed 326). Resisting perceptions of the disabled as fragile, Kawsar suggests a reframing of dependency as it relates to people with disabilities. Throughout her experience she grapples with the fact that she must rely on the support of others in order to survive. She illustrates how the refugee with disabilities maintains hope through the support provided by her peers. Kawsar's eventual understanding that she is more than a dependent and needy subject despite her reliance on others indicates that refugee dependence should not be viewed as burdensome, nor should the refugee with disabilities be cast as a liability to those providing aid to them. Through such examples, I intend to provide a framework through which to understand hope within the refugee with disabilities that, in extension, will reformulate how we understand dependence and agency within all refugees.

This paper intervenes at the intersection of disability and critical refugee studies to propose what I term a "social model of refugeehood." A theory heavily indebted to scholarship on the social model of disability, I push for adjustments in societal perceptions of dependence in refugees by considering what literary representations of refugee bodies with disabilities illuminate about the refugee experience during moments of flight. In focusing on moments of stasis in flight within two novels, the aforementioned Mohamed's The Orchard of Lost Souls as well as Emmanuel Dongala's Johnny Mad Dog (2005), I highlight the struggle for agency within the refugee with disabilities. 1 This struggle emerges out of a refugee's dependence on others for support during flight that frequently risks rendering the individual as lacking agency. I challenge readings that position such dependence as problematic by arguing instead for a framework that emphasizes the agency exerted in acts of resistance taken during flight.

The marginalization and stigmatization of people with disabilities, and disability's intersection with the marginalization and stigmatization of refugees, are areas that require critical attention. Refugees with disabilities are arguably "among the world's most vulnerable persons" and "often fall into the cracks of human rights protection" for they are "the most neglected during flight, displacement and return" (Crock et al. "Where Disability" 736; Smith-Khan et al. 39; Shivji 4). Despite statistics from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimating that in 2010 there were as many as three to four million refugees with disabilities,

relatively little scholarly attention has been paid to the particular issues and challenges facing persons with disabilities who seek protection as refugees. The fact that there are as yet no reliable statistics on the incidence of disabilities amongst refugees and asylum seekers is a measure of the neglect (to date) of this area of displacement and forced migration studies (Crock et al. "Where Disability" 736).

There is hence a real need for more research and scholarship within this area in order to resist further neglect of these human rights issues. While scholars have focused on the experience of refugees with disabilities in both the resettlement process and application process for asylum claims (El-Lahib), no such work has focused on such subjects' flight from home. Anthropological studies have been carried out that examine the legal framework of the United Nation's 2008 Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CPRD) and subsequent attempts to accommodate for refugees with disabilities (Crock et. al The Legal Protection). Other research has focused on issues of visibility and the lack of "legal instruments… at the international level to protect the rights of disabled refugees" (Karanja). I am aware that this is certainly still an unresolved issue, as is made clear by the 2017 European Disability Forum and Human Rights Watch event "Refugees with Disabilities: Overlooked, Underserved" (Human Rights Watch). While I do not wish to draw attention away from the specific plight of refugees with disabilities, I am interested in examining what the portrayal of these individuals in literature indicates about a larger, collective experience shared by all refugees. Thus, I work in a similar vein to those scholars wary of the "double-edged" nature of research that, in its focus on the vulnerability of refugees with disabilities, risks producing an exceptionalizing depiction of widespread issues that, in fact, all refugees struggle with (Mirza 232).

It should be noted that in no way am I trying to suggest in this paper that the experiences of disability and refugeehood are equivalent. In his work on the intersections of postcolonial and disability studies, Ato Quayson notes that "persons with disabilities, located on the margins of society as they are, have historically taken on the coloration of whatever else is perceived to also lie on the social margins of society" (5). Rather than using disability or refugeehood as an "opportunistic metaphorical device" for the other (Mitchell and Snyder, Narrative Prosthesis 47), I argue that the moments of intersection within the literary experiences of these subjectivities offers unique opportunities that, when put in conversation with theoretical perspectives from both fields, provide us with news ways of thinking about and responding to refugeehood and disability. This paper intervenes at this intersection to open up discussion on both discourses.

The aim of this paper is to provide an initial intervention into this area in hopes of sparking future discussion and action. I focus on the "ideology of ability" that renders disability as a burden and the object of fear (Siebers 8-9). Such privileging of able-bodiedness that leads to a stigmatization of bodily difference is echoed in conceptions of the refugee as abnormal Other to be feared and negated entry into a community. In an examination of characters embodying disabled refugee subjectivity, I analyze how they contest traits that frame disability as deficiency and thus transcend such dismissive identification. It is not my intention to prove that such characters ultimately succeed in this transcendence, but instead to highlight the issue that this struggle occurs in the first place. This struggle, illustrated so prominently in the refugee with disabilities, offers insight into both refugee subjectivity and disability identity. Similar to moves within disability studies to destigmatize dependency, I encourage a destigmatization of refugeehood with the hope that such an epistemological shift will result in individuals and nations that are more eager to accept refugees into their community without undue fear and concern. This call to reframe refugee identity within the global imaginary is made through a focus on the struggle for hope and recognition in the refugee with disabilities during moments of stasis and flight in literature and through a consideration of what I term a "social model of refugeehood."

In order to contextualize the argument that I am making about stasis in flight as a literary device of contested agency, a brief plot summary of each novel is necessary before providing an analysis of the two texts. The Orchard of Lost Souls and Johnny Mad Dog are both African novels, published a decade apart, that depict coerced flight from civil wars. The Orchard of Lost Souls is set in 1987 Somalia and follows the experience of elderly Kawsar, nine-year-old Deqo, and Filsan. Having stood up to the regime to protect the young orphan Deqo, Kawsar is severely beaten as punishment by Filsan, a soldier of the regime, who breaks Kawsar's hip and pelvis. Weeks later, Kawsar lies in bed unable to walk as violent conflict breaks out around her home in Hargeisa. Towards the end of the narrative, Deqo brings the newly disillusioned and remorseful Filsan to Kawsar's home in search of a safe-haven in the midst of the uprising. The trio decides to leave Kawsar's home to escape the violence in the city. Under the cover of night, Filsan and Deqo carry Kawsar in a wheelbarrow in an attempt to reach the safety of the Ethiopian border. Similarly, in Johnny Mad Dog, thirty-eight-year-old Mama, sixteen-year-old daughter (and part-time narrator) Lakolé, and eleven-year-old son Fofo attempt to flee the chaos of civil war in an unnamed nation that resembles Dongala's place of birth, Congo. With General Giap's radio announcement that a 48-hour purge is to take place in the area, during which time his rebel forces can "take anything you want… Whatever you wish is yours!" Mama and her children rush to bury their family valuables, including birth certificates and other official documents, and get out of their soon- to- be pillaged home (6). During an earlier period in which her home was attacked and her husband murdered, Mama's legs are beaten with the butt of a rifle by government troops. The eventual amputation of her legs results in their characterization as being "nothing more than stumps" (28). In their flight from home, Lakolé and Fofo push their mother in a wheelbarrow similar to Kawsar in The Orchard of Lost Souls. In their wheelbarrows, Kawsar and Mama challenge the condition that they need the ability to "walk out" from their circumstances in order to have hope as a refugee.

The experiences of the characters I focus on in this paper demonstrate the struggles faced by refugees the world over despite the fact that, by official terms, these characters would be deemed internally displaced persons. The legal definition of "refugee" per the UNHCR 1951 Refugee Convention applies to those who:

owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership, of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such, is unwilling to return to it (Chapter 1, Article 1, A (2)).

While the characters in these two texts remain within their own countries throughout the majority of the novels and thus aren't yet officially refugees, the intent of this paper is not to debate interpretations of refugee status. The characters in these texts were forced from their homes by the imminent threat of war in states in which the governing entities have been overthrown. They have since fled and seek safety in neighboring countries. As such, they signify a refugee experience. The above UNHCR definition of "refugee" privileges able-bodiedness, for the benefits of refugee status cannot be granted to one who is incapable of moving "outside the former country of his habitual residence." The attempts of Kawsar and Mama to leave their home countries in spite of their disabling environments call attention to the unique struggles required of people with physical disabilities who wish to gain refugee status. Furthermore, I have chosen to classify these characters as refugees rather than migrants in order to highlight the significant distinction between the two terms. According to the UNHCR, "Migrants, especially economic migrants, choose to move in order to improve the future prospects of themselves and their families. Refugees have to move if they are to save their lives or preserve their freedom" ("Refugees: Flowing Across Borders" [my italics]). This element of coercion or force, a direct attack on one's agency, is highlighted as the motivating factor of refugeehood. This distinction from "migrant" reveals the challenges to agency embedded within refugee subjectivity.

Refugee status thus intersects with disability identity, especially when we consider the framework suggested in the social model of disability. The social model focuses on the ways in which the environment itself is disabling for individuals as opposed to the now outdated medical model of disability which suggests that impairment is the cause of disability:

the medical model lodges defect in the individual body and calls for individualized treatment… The social model challenges the idea of defective citizenship by situating disability in the environment, not the body. Disability from this point of view requires not individual medical treatment but changes in society (Siebers 72-3).

The non-voluntary nature of refugee subjectivity in which one is coerced from their home out of a "well-founded fear" parallels an environment in which individuals are minoritized and stigmatized based on the actions and beliefs of those around them (who fear disability) and, as such, are forced to endure a non-accommodating environment. In this way, both the refugee and the person with disabilities compete for agency and recognition as human, a state that is doubled in the refugee with disabilities. Just as disability is located in the environment of the individual and not the impairment itself, the disabling notions of refugeehood that occlude access to hope and autonomy stem not from a lack of mobility inherent to any individual refugee. Instead, they derive from the agents who give rise to displacement and prevent mobility through threats of persecution in the place of origin, or oppose relocation through discriminatory beliefs at the intended destination. A lack of awareness of such facts leads to widely held beliefs founded in what could be viewed as a "medical model of refugeehood." Mansha Mirza, one of the few scholars to work closely within the fields of disability and refugee studies, contends that both displaced people and people with disabilities are frequently cast as "'aberrations in need of therapeutic intervention'" whom others attempt to 'cure' through "returning them to the natural order of things, either back into the fold of the nation-state or back into the state of normalcy" (217). In resistance to such perceptions, it is important to consider a social model of refugeehood that would challenge problematic renderings of refugees that focus on an alleged flaw in the individual while ignoring wider systemic causes. Such a model would emphasize the theoretical access to hope for those refugees unable to mobilize without support. The social model of disability inspired changes in society by shifting the target away from the medicalization of the individual toward an adjustment in societal perspectives. I aim to create similar shifts in perspective through a social model of refugeehood that would reform our conceptions of dependence and "defective citizenship" (Siebers 73) within the refugee.

A Social Model of Refugeehood

My use of a social of model of refugeehood to read literary experiences of refugees can be broken down into three key components: 1). an investigation into the historical context that gives rise to the disabling environment of the refugee subject, 2). subsequent challenges to refugee agency, and 3). acts of resistance taken by the refugee in response to these challenges. In what follows, I read The Orchard of Lost Souls and Johnny Mad Dog through these steps so as to provide an example of this theory in action. A brief orientation concerning the background of Kawsar's and Mama's environments in Hargeisa and Congo is followed by a more in-depth literary analysis of contested agency in each text during the instances of stasis in flight. The resistance to these challenges to agency is then analyzed in the final section following a brief overview of relevant scholarship concerning dependence theory in disability studies.

The Disabling Environment

The first step in reading these texts through a social model of refugeehood is to focus on the contextual backgrounds that give rise to the disabling environments surrounding Kawsar and Mama. In making this move, one recognizes that challenges to refugee agency derive not from a flaw or deficit in the individual but the environment surrounding them. Dependence on external agents, nations, and organizations for support during and after flight thus becomes less stigmatized as one recognizes the role that external agents, nations, and organizations play in the cause of displacement. For example, both novels depict refugees with disabilities 2 performing "acute refugee movement" in which the primary goal is to escape. In contrast to "anticipatory refugee movement" which is associated with the "voluntary migrant," acute movement concerns those who "have not planned or prepared for the journey; they are not looking at their future; they are simply trying to get out of harm's way" (Stein 322). Such involuntary and unanticipated expulsion from one's home suggests one reason why those individuals who find themselves thrown into such circumstances rely on others for assistance. However, instead of critiquing these refugees in any way for their unpreparedness, a social model of refugeehood locates the cause refugeehood and subsequent contested agency in the environing factors of persecution.

The environments of both novels exemplify neocolonial African states and the causes of displacement from each location extends out of their haunting colonial pasts. For Kawsar in The Orchard of Lost Souls, the dictatorship of Siad Barre around which conflict erupts in the novel is indebted to the residue of colonialism left after years of Italian and British influence, and emerges out of the exacerbations of Cold War intervention. Funding from both the Soviet Union and the U.S. at different times during the Cold War made Somalia the fourth most heavily-armed nation in sub-Saharan Africa in 1976 and one of the largest recipients of U.S. military aid in the region from 1980-1981 (Schmidt 149, 155). Without such support "local conflicts would not have escalated into regional ones that took an enormous toll in human life" (Schmidt 144). The regional conflict that arises in the novel and forces Kawsar from her home is thus fueled and funded in part by foreign intervention. For Mama in Johnny Mad Dog, while her location is never explicitly revealed, the situation in the unnamed African nation closely resembles that of Congo. 3 The clashes for control between competing factions in the novel echoes conflict waged in a Congo destabilized by Western intervention following years of Belgian colonial rule. Attempts by Belgium to continue to benefit from its colony's economy by installing a government that would favor Western influence when Congo gained independence in June 1960 led to disruptions in the democratic process that would impact the living conditions for the Congolese for years to come. The assassination of Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba in January 1961, an event in which both the U.S. and Belgium played significant roles, destabilized Congo and established a power vacuum. Overt and covert military support of secessionist leader Moïse Tshombe by the U.S. to fight supporters of the now dead Lumumba resulted in a "lawlessness" punctuated by Joseph-Désiré Mobutu's Western supported dictatorship (Schmidt 58-74). The faction-fighting of the subsequent First and Second Congo Wars provide the backdrop of Johnny Mad Dog and force Mama and her children from their home. In light of these contexts, the events that force Kawsar and Mama from their homes, threaten their lives, and disable them in the process, are attributed to external activity in which neither character plays a role. Any dependence on support displayed by these characters is thus destigmatized by this fact for, just as they are not to blame for their disabilities, they are not to blame for their displacement.

Challenges to Agency

While the term stasis in flight captures the state of contested agency that characterizes the experience of refugees generally speaking, within the confines of this paper I theorize it specifically in relation to refugees with disabilities in whom it is made most visible. Working from Coundouriotis' claim that refugee narratives "are structured around a tension between mobility and stasis" (78), stasis in flight is a phrase that illustrates tension and halted experience in migratory movement. 4 Literal moments of stasis in flight in both The Orchard of Lost Souls and Johnny Mad Dog portray refugees with disabilities as being physically carried by others as a means of assisted mobility. During such moments, the characters enter a paradoxical state of mobilization in immobility. The support required in such scenes risks rendering the refugees as perpetually dependent figures bereft of agency. What follows is an analysis of such scenes through a problematic medical model of disability in which I provide a reading of the refugee with disabilities as a dependent figure. I do this in order to illustrate how common misunderstandings of refugee subjectivity arise through what one might call a medical model of refugeehood. This section sets up the final portion of this paper in which a reading of these same characters through a social model of refugeehood is conducted.

Scenes in which either Kawsar or Mama are transported via wheelbarrow indicate an enactment of stasis in flight that illustrates each characters' respective state of contested agency. The wheelbarrows frame each character as a dependent individual incapable of moving without assistance for, unlike a wheelchair, a wheelbarrow cannot be self-propelled by the person sitting in it. As a result, both characters rely on the assistance of others in their flight. The resulting image of characters being pushed in wheelbarrows infantilizes both Kawsar and Mama as they are positioned as if they were being pushed in a stroller.

Lacking a wheelchair when war breaks out in Hargeisa, Kawsar resorts to a wheelbarrow that highlights her dependence. Inside the wheelbarrow lined with blankets from her bed, her movement embodies the contested agency of stasis in flight when it comes time to flee. The blankets harken back to her bedroom in the house she is leaving behind and the bed that she has been living in until this moment. This is a bed that in the weeks leading up to conflict she,

has become one with […] from a two-legged creature she has grown four metal feet, the mattress molded to her flesh, its springs entwined with her ribs. Trapped within a skin within a bed within a house, only her two peeping eyes feel mobile, alive; they flutter about the room (Mohamed 141).

Kawsar's mobile eyes that "flutter about the room" harken back to earlier metaphorical imagery which describes her as being "cocooned" in her bed (139). While on one level this tension between the stasis of a cocoon and the mobility of a butterfly suggests she has the potential for flight, it is dramatically undercut by the imagery of stasis that follows: "If only damp wings could unfurl from her back and bear her away. Instead, there are bedsores" (139). Here, the bedsores serve as a continual reminder to Kawsar of the stasis that she struggles to disrupt. Even in her flight, arguably a moment in which she succeeds in this disruption, Filsan and Deqo symbolically prolong the challenges to Kawsar's agency by moving the blankets from her bed to the wheelbarrow. This act represents the ways in which the stasis of the bedroom extends into the flight itself as Mama struggles to exert agency and autonomy over her experience. In her flight, just as in her bedroom, the only mobility Kawsar has control over is that of her eyes.

The challenge to agency portrayed in Kawsar's movement via wheelbarrow alludes back to an earlier moment in which she struggles to come to terms with her injury. The disciplinary beating that she receives from Filsan for challenging the regime in Somalia leaves her hospitalized in the weeks leading up the outbreak of conflict. Kawsar is unable to be operated on due to her age and the doctor informs her "all we can do is make sure the pain is under control" before walking away and ignoring her question as to whether or not she will walk again (122). For Kawsar, there is little hope of mobility without assistance. When she tries to leave the hospital she is denied access to a gurney and subsequently relies on her friends to support her. Maryam and Raage lift the corners of the woolen blanket that she lies on and carry her out of the hospital in a moment of stasis in flight. This alternative form of mobility marks Kawsar as particularly dependent. Such acts magnify her perceived sense of dependency and result in her self-identifying as "invalid" (149) due to her inability to care for herself and her belief that she is "just a stomach to be filled and a backside to be wiped" (141). Her self-depiction as a series of body parts void of agency conveys an infantilization that stresses her perceived inadequacies.

Within Johnny Mad Dog, Mama flees in a wheelbarrow that resembles a bed as Lakolé places a pillow and folded blanket inside it for comfort, paralleling Filsan's and Deqo's attempts in The Orchard of Lost Souls to do the same with Kawsar's wheelbarrow. Here again we see the attempt to maintain the illusion of domestic space during flight, which illustrates the conflict of wanting to flee but being unwilling to leave home. Lakolé's actions harken back to earlier scenes in Johnny Mad Dog in which Mama, in her actual bed, dreams of "strolling by myself through the city zoo" (14). These dreams of independent mobility parallel Kawsar's desires to fly. Mama's dream is fulfilled, to a certain extent, when she is pushed in the wheelbarrow-bed by her daughter. However, the hybrid space of the wheelbarrow calls attention to the fact that she is not fully living out her dream as she fails to exert control over where she is pushed. Thus, it serves to highlight her state of contested agency.

Both wheelbarrows carry with them particular historical narratives that frame the characters that lie inside of them as bereft of agency. The wheelbarrow used to carry Kawsar was originally used to deliver baguettes to housewives. She is thus indirectly equated with bread. On one level, this suggests that she might provide some form of sustenance to others in the future and thus foreshadows her actions towards the end of the novel when she provides the money to the smugglers who take her, Filsan, and Deqo to the border. At the same time, however, comparing Kawsar to bread positions her as being akin to an inanimate object, thus complicating her claims to agency. Just as the wheelbarrow was once used to carry bread that, in the past, provided money for the family, so too is her agency tied to historical action. The money she provides the smugglers is derived from activities she undertook prior to her injuries. In this way, it is suggested that Kawsar as person with disabilities can only be useful based on the agency she once had. In a similar way, the wheelbarrow used to transport Mama in Johnny Mad Dog was once used by (now dead) Papa to transport cement and sand for the foundations and walls that he built in his job. Mama is thus represented as being able to build and provide foundations. This is illustrated in the actions she takes in response to hearing of yet another incoming rebel attack. In this moment she becomes, according to Lakolé, "the tower of strength" she once was when she "ran the household, sold goods at the market, fixed our meals…" (14). While she provides an emotional presence that stabilizes Lakolé in this moment, reading such presence as agency is complicated by the fact that she is being compared to how she was before her injury. This comparison is more emotional than literal, for Mama can no longer actually run the household or sell goods at the market without significant support. In this way, her comparison to cement and sand that builds foundations simultaneously highlights her immobility and lack of agency following her injury.

Acts of Resistance

Rather than reading these characters as particularly dependent figures, I now turn to consider the ways in which both Kawsar and Mama exert agency in the form of resistance. In what follows, the third component of the social model of refugeehood is discussed through a reframing of dependence in the refugees with disabilities. I begin with an overview of the theoretical underpinnings of dependence theory as it relates to the social model before providing an alternative reading to the two novels already discussed. This second reading, in which contested agency is scrutinized for the resistance exerted by the refugee subject, is intended to offer an example of what analyzing these texts and characters through a social model of refugeehood contributes to discussions of refugee agency and autonomy.

My focus on moments of stasis in flight is intended to destigmatize dependence within popular conceptions of refugee subjectivity. Coundouriotis aptly contends that, given the fact that refugees must flee if they are to survive, they find themselves "marked by their loss of mobility and autonomy" when confined to camps (78). However, refugees with physical impairments that prevent mobility are constantly marked whether they are inside a camp or not. In resistance to this, these figures maintain hope for survival through the establishment of networks or relationships of dependence and interdependence that support them in their struggle for agency. Coundouriotis goes on to argue that narratives of flight "portray the refugee as an agent in her own survival" and thus challenge "the dehumanizing aspects of the refugee experience of dependence" (81). Such refugee agency is evident in narratives of the refugee with disabilities through the concepts of dependence and interdependence that emerge during moments of stasis in flight.

The notion of interdependence derives from the scholarly shift within disability studies away from a privileging of the independent and autonomous individual in favor of an acceptance of the reality of dependency (Fine and Glendinning 613). Two frameworks contribute to the way in which I am theorizing dependence in the refugee with disabilities. The first concerns a reading that casts dependencies as part of networks of "assemblages" or "connectivities" that challenge a rehabilitative project informed by a medical model of disability. Barbara E. Gibson, Franco A. Carnevale, and Gillian King explain how the formation of such assemblages and support networks is illustrated through Mimi, "a bright 12-year-old girl with a rare neuromuscular condition" whose "primary mode of mobility is a power wheelchair." The relationship between Mimi and her wheelchair is framed as one in which she sometimes is, and other times is not, the chair itself. The wheelchair provides Mimi an extension in her ability to be mobile and, while "it may be part of her, it is a replaceable part." As such, Mimi and her wheelchair reflect an assemblage of dependence similar to the relationship between Mimi and her mother (Gibson et al. 1895-96).

Out of this emerges an ethic of openness that is not simply about rejecting dependency in favor of interdependency. Instead "becoming" suggests moving between dependence, independence and interdependence where different assemblages have different effects on their various human actors. Some assemblages are fruitful and enabling, others hurtful and disabling, most have multiple effects but none are static. Rather than promoting independence, the project becomes a minimization of the harms associated with different assemblages. Doing so requires a change in the social imaginary wherein dependence is not in and of itself seen as a personal failure or poor rehabilitation outcome (Gibson et al. 1896).

Such assemblages of dependence are reflected in the relationships between refugees with disabilities and their fellow refugees. These relationships portray moments of dependence, independence, and interdependence as able-bodied refugees come to rely on the refugee with disabilities for survival just as the latter depends on them. Dependence is not framed "as a personal failure" but simply one assemblage of many (Gibson et al. 1896). Within the disability community, the need for assistance is framed not as dependency "but as a sort of prosthesis that permits one to be independent" (Kittay "The Ethics of Care" 50). Judy Heumann, one of the founders of the Independent Living Movement, notes that independence is "being able to make independent decisions" as opposed to being "physically alone" (qtd. in Kittay "The Ethics of Care" 50). In this way, Eva Feder Kittay suggests an "Ethics of Care" that embraces instead of scrutinizes unequal assemblages (53).

Such unequal assemblages are at the center of the second framework of dependence from which I am drawing. Kittay successfully complicates presumptions of reciprocity when it comes to providing support to those in need. She encourages an "alternative understanding of equality" within relationships that focuses not on "exchange reciprocity" between individuals but instead a "connection-based equality." While with exchange reciprocity the individual is expected to return the favor of any care or aid provided them, under a connection-based equality they are not. If one is in the privileged position of being able to offer help, they do so, and if later on the once privileged find that they are in need, another individual who is capable of helping will do so ("Moral Obligations" 66-8). In such cases, there is a "delayed reciprocity or transferred responsibility" that prevents reading vulnerable subjects as being indebted to those who help them (Fine and Glendinning 612). The receiver is not indebted to their provider and thus associations of "liability" are eradicated from relationships. Under such framework, individuals find themselves "nested within relationships of care" by birth (Kittay "Moral Obligations" 66-7). This ontological shift in how one conceives of dependence echoes that encouraged by the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CPRD) which reframes people with disabilities as "rights-bearers" as opposed to "objects of charity" (Crock et. al. The Legal Protection 21).

Kittay illustrates that the move from exchange reciprocity to connection-based equality requires a change at the level of societal structure and relations through what she terms "nested obligations" ("Moral Obligations" 67). I understand this to mean that in supporting someone in need, the giver of support can reasonably expect to receive help if they ever find themselves in a similar position. These relationships portray a nested obligation in that the receiver of support is never indebted to the giver. Paramount to such an economy of support is the requirement that those outside the original giver-receiver relationship must recognize the obligation they have to those within it, as well as the obligations others have to them if the outsider is ever in need. In this way, nested obligations appear to derive from one's inalienable human rights, and it is thus through the humanitarian act of recognizing others' humanness and responding to their rights (through providing aid and support) that this connection-based equality is effective. In this way, what might at first seem to be an economic view of relationships as transactional entities is in actuality a perspective founded on the dignity one holds by birth that cannot be traded.

Narratives of the disabled refugee in flight, and the subsequent moments of stasis in flight, challenge stereotypes of dependence and the perceived lack of independence in the person with disabilities. Coundouriotis describes the refugee narrative as being "built on a series of refusals that underpin [the refugee's] agency." Such refusals convey the refugee's "prerogative of choosing a destiny" (81-82). Such agency is complicated by the refugee in flight who, in choosing a destiny, relies on assemblages of dependence. This reliance, as is made clear through Kittay's connection-based equality, is not required to be paid back in any form by the individual who receives aid, for the support provided is a humanitarian act undertaken by a subject who recognizes the humanity and dignity of those in need. I analyze such relationships of dependence throughout the final section of this paper as a means of reframing agency in the refugee with disabilities and thus reconsidering their opportunities for hope. Through such reconsiderations, I intend to destigmatize perceptions of dependence within refugeehood and challenge stereotypes of the "successful refugee" as one in whom resettlement is achieved without support (Mirza 230). While disability, oftentimes resulting from an injury, plays a role in the "severity of the refugee's experience," the role of assistance is of much greater significance here (Crock et. al. The Legal Protection 69). Survival for the refugee with disabilities depends on the support and assistance of others, just as survival for the refugee frequently requires humanitarian aid. Neither of these dependencies is indicative of a blemish in the character or ability of the refugee subject.

The previously examined moments of stasis in flight that challenge refugee agency in The Orchard of Lost Souls and Johnny Mad Dog are resisted through actions taken by Kawsar and Mama. This resistance is outlined in what Miriam George refers to as a "refugee resilienc[e]" that "serves to counter the social construction of forced migrants as victims without agency, and enables refugees, despite their traumatic experiences, to succeed in the new society" (432). This enabling resilience, indicative of the social model of disability, is seen in the two characters' movement via wheelbarrows. This movement represents acts of resistance to both stasis and death as Kawsar and Mama strive to survive the conflict that forces them from home. In this way, their attempts to maintain relics of private domestic space during flight, such as when they both have their wheelbarrows fitted with blankets from their homes to resemble the beds from which they are forced to flee, represent a kind of refugee resilience as Kawsar and Mama yearn to survive but are unwilling to abandon their homes entirely. The use of a wheelbarrow and other methods of mobilization by these characters (Mama at one point is pushed on a bicycle, for example) also indicates a particular resourcefulness in the refugee. The absence of wheelchairs in both settings is indicative of the disabling environment characteristic of acute refugee movement. This key plot point also demonstrates the socioeconomic status of these characters who struggle to afford a wheelchair, reflected most notably in Lakolé's and Fofo's goals of buying a wheelchair for Mama "as soon as we'd saved up enough money," a point that is directly contrasted by the SUV that Lakolé's friend Melanie and her family escape in (Dongala 36). In this way, the resourcefulness of these characters who make do with the less than optimal conditions to find a device that will assist in their flight demonstrates a notable exertion of agency that is partially responsible for their initial survival.

Both Kawsar and Mama also refuse to be reduced to a "totalizing 'master status'" of 'disabled' that is often cast onto people with disabilities (Thomson 244). Multiple elements of their respective identities portray these two individuals as more than merely "disabled" or "refugee." We see this in their transitions from infantilized to maternal figures through their role within assemblages of dependence, transitions that illuminate the multi-faceted identity of refugeehood. In this way, their struggle to reclaim agency complicates stereotypical portrayals of disability in female figures that frequently render them as "unfit for motherhood or of themselves infantilized objects who occasion other people's virtue" (Thomson 237) and instead reaffirms their dignity.

Kawsar resists attacks to her agency through the control she exerts over the decision to flee. While she does eventually give in to Deqo and Filsan's requests to flee, that they wait until she agrees to leave with them indicates her control over the situation. 5 This comes after Kawsar turns down her friend Dahabo's request to fly with her and her family to Jeddah, despite Dahabo having arranged a visa for Kawsar. "You are deserting me, Kawsar, not the other way around," Dahabo says. "I will carry you out on my back if you let me" (Mohamed 197). Dahabo's rationalizing away of her guilt for abandoning Kawsar here emphasizes a characterization of Kawsar in which she exerts agency in refusing the offer. This is corroborated by her presumed desire to not rely on her friend to carry her around on her back. Kawsar's thoughts on leaving with Dahabo reflect her characterization as agent; she feels that if she went with Dahabo she would be "as silent and unwelcome as a toad in an outhouse" listening as Dahabo's family argue in another room (Mohamed 160). Her decision to "live out my life in my own home" thus reflects a strong desire to avoid becoming a mere passive listener in someone else's house. These examples indicate a fear in Kawsar to accept assistance and be rendered (in her mind) dependent. She appears to transcend this fear in her later decision to flee with Deqo and Filsan. Kawsar feels "a strange, strange thrill in declaring what she wants rather than what she thinks others need." She further justifies her actions by reasoning that "If she goes with them she will see exactly what has happened to her town" (325). This voyeuristic desire harkens back to the agency she possesses in her eyes (that flutter about the room) and the act of seeing; in flight, she will be able to do and see things she wouldn't be able to if she were to stay, thus the decision to leave indicates her potential for greater agency.

Kawsar reframes her own understanding of dependence based on her relationships with the characters around her. In this way, she resists the stigma of dependency by challenging traditional notions of dependence. Nurto, a cousin of Kawsar's friend Maryam, is enlisted to live with Kawsar and care for her by both bathing her and preparing her food. During her weekly wash, Kawsar internally reminisces over scenes in which her mother bathed her as a child (142). In this return to infancy Kawsar is negated agency as a person with disabilities in need of assistance. However, Kawsar's reaction to this act is also instrumental in the reaffirmation of her personhood and humanness. Nurto's touch during the weekly wash "is enough to make [Kawsar] feel human again" (145), this moment of recognition illustrating the connection between personhood and "the desire for recognition" that Judith Butler theorizes (Butler 33). It is ultimately such acts that lead to Kawsar's ability to recognize a similar humanness in others and thus understand the notion of nested obligations that require this recognition of humanness. The shift in Kawsar's perception of herself, from one in which she positions disability as an identity that dehumanizes and must be washed away, to one in which she feels restored as human, points to her understanding that dignity and therefore agency can result when one is cared for by another. This is in contrast to a belief in which dignity stems solely from a restrictive definition of independence (Kittay "The Ethics of Care" 51-2). Nurto's washing of Kawsar restores in her an alternative form of independence unique to her situation. In this way, despite potentially being rendered as infantile, Kawsar is able to reframe how she understands dependence. Nurto's recognition of Kawsar as human influences Kawsar's later recognition of Filsan and Deqo as humans in need of assistance when she allows them to take shelter in her home when conflict breaks out. It is this newfound understanding of dependence that allows Kawsar to feel comfortable in her reliance on others when she undertakes her flight.

Kawsar's ability to recognize humanness and nested obligations plays a significant role in her survival as it sets an example that Deqo and Filsan follow. Just as Kawsar came to Deqo's assistance when Filsan was berating the young orphan at the start of the novel, 6 she again provides for the young orphan she barely knows when she offers her a place in her home. When Deqo later brings Filsan back to Kawsar's house, Kawsar does not turn the woman who attacked her away. Instead, she offers her shelter in a moment of extraordinary forgiveness. She does this not because she expects Filsan to one day repay her for this shelter but because she is aware it is the right thing to do (in large part because of the realization she experienced through Nurto's actions). Filsan experiences a similar reaction in her decision to help Kawsar. Kawsar's forgiveness encourages Filsan to perceive Kawsar as human and in need of help despite having once viewed her as worthy of the brutal beating she laid on Kawsar that led to her injuries. When Filsan pushes Kawsar in the wheelbarrow she is no doubt motivated in part by guilt but also by the respect she has for the woman who was able to forgive her and provide her shelter in her home. In this way, Kawsar influences Filsan, her attacker, to recognize her as human.

Reframing the wheelbarrows as "assistive technologies" as opposed to tools that render the characters dependent reflects how both Kawsar and Mama are empowered. Within Gibson, Carnevale, and King's work in disability studies, Mimi is described as being "much freer" when using the assistive technology of her wheelchair than she when not using it. For her, it "provide[s] access to the world and facilitate[s] social participation" (1894-96). In a similar way, the wheelbarrows used to transport Kawsar and Mama provide a particular access to the world in the form of flight. As a piece of assistive technology the wheelbarrow, when combined with the efforts of others, contributes as part of an assemblage of dependence. That "[a]ssemblages can both enable and disable in myriad ways" reflects how the wheelbarrow can at once seem it is casting the characters as particularly dependent while at the same time highlighting their attempts to exert agency through the act of flight (Gibson et. al 1898). This is illustrated through the contents of a wheelbarrow. The purpose of a wheelbarrow is to transport items that are not easy to transport by hand from one place to another. While, during the movement from one location to another, the contents offer little to the person moving the wheelbarrow, it is once one reaches their destination that the items are most useful. Vital to their becoming useful is the requirement that one moves them to a location in which they can be useful. The wheelbarrow thus carries in it items that hold a certain level of potential that can only be accessed through the assistive act of movement. This relates directly to Kawsar and Mama who can be extremely helpful to others once they have been moved out their disabling environments. 7 Through the assistance of others who offer to push the wheelbarrows, both Kawsar and Mama achieve a "decisional autonomy" that, despite its "execution" involving the assistance of others, still represents the exertion of agency (Fine and Glendinning 611). This is perhaps best illustrated by the fact that it is Kawsar who ultimately controls when she, Filsan, and Deqo will flee, for this decision is predicated on the notion that they will assist in her flight by pushing the wheelbarrow. This decisional autonomy directs back to Judy Heumann's notions of independence described earlier in this paper (concerning the assistance provided for a person with disabilities that enables them "to make independent decisions"). Those who benefit from the wheelbarrow as an assistive technology and the assemblage of dependence to which it contributes (which includes the efforts of those pushing it) establish a relationship emblematic of nested obligations. Just as those pushing Kawsar and Mama do so because they recognize dignity and humanness, Kawsar and Mama are influenced to recognize the humanness in others and to support to them.

This ultimately leads to Kawsar's ability to counter her previously infantilized state by saving the lives of both Deqo and Filsan in the final moments of the novel. Just like the bread that the wheelbarrow is used to transport is needed for sustenance and life itself, Kawsar prevents the untimely death of her peers when she pays half a million shillings, along with the gold earrings she wears, to smugglers who agree to drive her, Deqo, and Filsan across the border into Ethiopia. Her agency is reclaimed in this act through the effect that it has on her body and on Filsan. The encounter between the able-bodied person and the person with disabilities has been characterized as one of fear, anxiety, and unease for the former. The response of the able-bodied to the physical embodiment of an impairment is to reevaluate "what it means to be human in a world governed by radical contingency" (Quayson 17). The response of the able-bodied Filsan to the disabled Kawsar the first time she encounters her after the beating, which happens to be when Kawsar invites Filsan into her home, is for Filsan to raise her hands "whether in denial or surrender it is difficult to tell" (Mohamed 324). The uncertainty of the narration here parallels the uncertainty of Filsan who is reckoning with the "radical contingency" that caused Kawsar's impairment: Filsan herself. Interestingly, Filsan reacts in this way not only to the body of Kawsar but also to her actions. It is a combination of both the guilt that Filsan feels when she views the pain she inflicted on Kawsar's body, and the shock and further guilt she feels in Kawsar's acts of forgiving her enough to not only flee with her but also pay to save her life, that renders Filsan as the one without agency as she "stands impotently behind as Kawsar removes her earrings and passes everything to the smuggler." This reversal of agency, caused by the act of forgiveness by Kawsar in conjunction with the emotional narrative she evokes through her body, is further confirmed as the now "weightless" body of Kawsar that only moments before "weigh[ed] a ton" is lifted onto the lorry (332).

The network of dependence that is established by the end of The Orchard of Lost Souls points to one way in which refugees with disabilities, and arguably all refugees, can reclaim agency. Kawsar, whose husband and daughter are dead, Filsan, who is at odds with both her father and the regime in which he plays a role, and the orphan Deqo are all in need of support in some form. As such, it is no surprise that by the end of the text they form an alternative family unit as portrayed in Deqo's move, now at the refugee camp, to claim Filsan as her mother and Kawsar as her grandmother in front of UN officials. The formation of this unit portrays Kittay's commentary on embracing dependency: "When we acknowledge how dependence on another saves us from isolation and provides the connections to another that makes life worthwhile, we can start the process of embracing needed dependencies" (Kittay "The Ethics of Care" 57). Each character within this trio is isolated until the network of dependence is embraced. This is perhaps best illustrated during the flight of all three as Filsan pushes Kawsar in the wheelbarrow and Deqo guides it. During this climactic moment Kawsar's pain seems to be transferred into the body of Filsan as "Bolts of pain shoot up and down [Filsan's] spine and she endures it silently, seeing them as part of the restitution she has to make, a physical purification if not a spiritual one" (Mohamed 329). While on the surface this transfer reflects the guilt of Filsan trying to make amends, it simultaneously calls attention to the assemblage of dependence that has been established as all three become one unit. While at this moment Kawsar does not seem to be contributing, moments later she will ensure the survival of all three in the act that renders the other two without agency. That at any one time members of the unit are happy to assist another without expecting anything in return suggests their understanding that care "is most appreciated when it can be least reciprocated" (Kittay "The Ethics of Care" 52). As such, they enact a "care-based ethics" that does not oppose "inequalities" (Kittay "The Ethics of Care" 53). This appears as one solution in the struggle for agency for the refugee who exists in the paradoxical state of stasis in flight.

Mama's resistance in Johnny Mad Dog to being rendered as infantile and dependent is much more complex than Kawsar's in The Orchard of Lost Souls. Similar to Kawsar's self-identification as an invalid, Mama views herself as a burden to her children when they prepare to flee the conflict engulfing their neighborhood. She refuses to allow her children to take her with them in their flight. Having watched her husband get shot by the same rebels that brutally attacked her, Mama explains she "had no further reason to live; life had lost its meaning" before explaining "she had stayed alive solely for [her children's] sake." In a section narrated by Lakolé in the first person, Lakolé explains what Mama tells her:

If [Mama] didn't want to leave, it was precisely because of her love for us. She would be a burden to us, would slow us down in our flight; and she wanted to spare us the trouble of hauling her along in a wheelbarrow (Dongala 29).

That Mama perceives herself to be an unnecessary burden that will only slow down and endanger her children indicates her depressed mental state. These views extend to her daughter who subscribes to a similar ideology of ability in her perception of her mother's condition as being "a fate worse than death" (35). In spite of this, Lakolé does challenge her mother's attempts to remain behind: "I was speechless when I heard this. Never had it occurred to me that my mother could be a burden" (29). In a remarkable moment of manipulation, Mama's children convince her to come with them by calling on her role within the assemblage of dependence between the family members; "if she didn't want to come with us, we wouldn't go at all […] I seized the opportunity to add that it was better to die like that—all together, as a family" (Dongala 29). As such, Mama's claim to agency through her desire to stay is challenged by her children through their love and care for her, thus portraying a complex moment of stasis in flight in which agency is negated in the individual as means of maintaining hope for survival for the family.

Lakolé's resistance to her mother's decisional autonomy in the above scene conveys her difficulty in reframing her understanding of dependence. Lakolé's conceptions of dependence are at times problematic for the way in which they indirectly challenge Mama's agency. Lakolé experiences unease at being given anything without some form of reciprocal action that is at once tangible and immediate. This is portrayed in the refugee camp where she self-identifies as "waiting for handouts like a beggar." Lakolé is uncomfortable accepting such "handouts" because her family "always earned our daily bread through our labor" (143). She instead derives comfort at being able to pay a man who assists her mother by carrying her on is bike, "We were in a situation that benefitted both of us […] Without my money, he certainly wouldn't have taken us. But without him, my money wouldn't have saved Mama." Lakolé later expresses disappointment at being unable to locate and reimburse the stranger who transported her to the safety of a refugee camp while she slept (183). Given her transactional views of relationships, what Kittay would term exchange reciprocity, one questions whether Lakolé supports Mama's flight from conflict out of kind of a recognition of her mother's humanness and vulnerability, or because she feels some form of obligation to pay her mother back for raising her. One thus questions whether Lakolé would help someone else in the same situation her mother is in if it were a stranger. She answers this, however, when she rescues an orphaned girl towards the end of the novel and, in recognizing her as human, decides to care for her by claiming the girl as her own in the final lines of the text.

It is this act taken by Lakolé that illustrates the complicated reaffirmation of Mama's agency. The emergence of Lakolé as a maternal figure comes through what at first appears to be a hydraulic relationship with Mama that renders the mother an infant. Lakolé attends to her immobile mother from the earliest moments of the novel, watching over her while she sleeps and listening to the descriptions of her playful dreams when she awakens, she cares for Mama as if she were a child. Lakolé takes on the form of a pregnant woman while pushing her mother in the wheelbarrow as she ties a bag to her back "the way other women were carrying their babies" (37). As such, the wheelbarrow is rendered a stroller and its contents, Mama, an infant. However, this relationship simultaneously restores in Mama a sense of agency in the sense that it is her success in raising and preparing Lakolé that enables her daughter to take on the maternal role that is required of her. In this way, Mama's actions reflect one version of nested obligations. The delayed reciprocity between Mama's raising of Lakolé from birth, and Lakolé's caring for Mama, Fofo, and the orphan girl she rescues, reflect how Mama's contribution to the assemblage of dependence has long-lasting impact on others. Mama's care for Lakolé enables Lakolé to recognize the humanness in the orphan and successfully care for her. Much like the comparison of Kawsar to bread, Mama's earlier comparison to sand and cement has more positive connotations than immediately suggested. The sand and cement are staple materials for her husband's creation of foundations, though in order to have a significant impact they must be transported to a location in which they can be effective. In this way, the act of transporting Mama that positions Lakolé in a parental role (which enables her to, in turn, benefit many others) reflects how Mama's agency has a delayed impact that is more easily recognized once she and her daughter are removed from their disabling environment. Notably, while Mama's agency is exerted in providing the foundation for Lakolé's later success in life, including her ability to survive the conflict, the full development of Lakolé occurs through the act of flight with Mama beside her.

The ambiguity surrounding Mama's resistance to challenges to her agency in Johnny Mad Dog conveys the difficulties of reframing one's understandings of dependence. Unlike Kawsar, Mama does not exert decisional autonomy in her flight from home. She views herself as a burden, and the description of her death when the house she hides inside is bombed suggests that she perhaps remained inside willingly so as to hasten her daughter's flight. Further, there is something to be said of the fact that if Mama does exert agency through her daughter's actions as a parental figure, this is an agency embedded in historical action during a time in which she was able-bodied. Through both Mama and Lakolé, we see how the shift in how we understand dependence is difficult for both people with disabilities (no doubt influenced by problematic norms held by society at large) and the able-bodied. Lakolé's struggle to restructure her understanding of dependence is emblematic of the similar struggle society must undertake to reframe how we perceive dependence in refugees. We see how fixed our current framework of dependence is through the UN workers at the refugee camp who complain, "It's maddening—all we can do is sit and wait! We're completely dependent on decisions made elsewhere" (Dongala 154). Such examples of the struggle to reframe dependence in Johnny Mad Dog contrast with those of The Orchard of Lost Souls in which assemblages of dependence and networked obligations are more accepted. This indicates that, while the motif of stasis in flight within refugee narratives offers the potential to move towards an acceptance and promotion of a new framework of dependence, such a shift, while necessary, will not be easy. A successful change will, however, result in refugees experiencing a reversal in which, through an acknowledgement by society of their precarious position, they will be recognized as human. Such a move is necessary to allow refugees access to hope.

Conclusion

Is there hope for the refugee with disabilities? In analyzing Kawsar's and Mama's situation, we see that the answer is contested. The fundamental difference between Dongala's Mama and Mohamed's Kawsar is that Mama does not survive the ordeal of flight. Crushed inside her sister's home as she attempts to avoid the bombs dropped by planes during the conflict they are trying to flee, Mama's death forces Lakolé to pursue the rest of her flight alone. It would seem that there is little hope for such subjects to survive. And yet Kawsar makes it to the refugee camp on the border of Somalia and Ethiopia and provides a maternal figure to the orphaned Deqo and runaway Filsan. Is it possible that her survival represents an opportunity for hope?

I began this paper began by asking what it was that the experience of refugees with disabilities in flight can tell us about refugee agency. By definition, the refugee exists in a contested space of stasis in flight in which the primary motivating factor for flight is coercion, not choice. This denial of agency is made startlingly clear in literary depictions of the disabled refugee in flight. By focusing on the idea of stasis in flight, I have analyzed how refugees with disabilities resist being rendered as totally dependent and infantile through a reconsideration of dependence. These acts of resistance demonstrate the struggle to reclaim agency that takes place due to the social implications of disability. By considering how these individuals exert agency, I intend to influence an understanding of the ways in which all refugees exert agency despite popular misconceptions. While refugees experience challenges to agency, they are not bereft of agency altogether.

In understanding and embracing the social model of disability that emphasizes the necessity for societal change, a subsequent embracing of a social model of refugeehood can take place. Such an act offers the potential to dispel the stigmatization and challenges to agency for all refugees. A social model resists more than just misconceptions of refugees as inherently dangerous figures destined to draw on the welfare systems of a society. Through what Kittay terms connection-based equality, it also challenges well-intended arguments that refugees will ultimately benefit their new country economically. The social model reframes dependence in such a way that the recognition of humanness in a refugee is prioritized over any other characteristic, including their potential to contribute to the economy of a new nation. Ideally, a social model encourages the creation of support systems for refugees regardless of one's ability to ever repay their 'debts' in the future. In this way, we avoid potential policies of merit-based immigration in which merit is measured by financial success as opposed to innate human dignity. In becoming more accepting of how dependence actually works, a society can subsequently become more accepting of refugees both in theory and practice. It is in this way that hope can be maintained.

Works Cited

  • Abani, Chris. Song for Night: A Novella. Akashic Books, 2007.
  • Butler, Judith. "Beside Oneself: On the Limits of Sexual Autonomy" Undoing Gender. Routledge, 2004, pp. 17-40.
  • Coundouriotis, Eleni. "In Flight: The Refugee Experience and Human Rights Narrative." The Routledge Companion to Literature and Human Rights. Eds. Sophia A. McClennen and Alexandra Schultheis Moore. Routledge, 2016, pp. 78-85.
  • Crock, Mary, Christine Ernst, and Ron McCallum Ao. "Where Disability and Displacement Intersect: Asylum Seekers and Refugees with Disabilities." International Journal of Refugee Law, vol. 24, no. 4, 2012, pp. 735-64. https://doi.org/10.1093/ijrl/ees049
  • Crock, Mary, Laura Smith-Khan, R. C. McCallum, and Ben Saul, The Legal Protection of Refugees with Disabilities: Forgotten and Invisible? Edward Elgar Publishing, 2017. https://doi.org/10.4337/9781786435446
  • Dongala, Emmanuel. Johnny Mad Dog. Tran. Maria Louise Archer. Picador, 2006.
  • Eggers, Dave. What Is the What: The Autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng: A Novel. 2006.
  • El-Lahib, Yahya. "Dominant Health Discourses in Action: Constructing People with Disabilities as the "Inadmissable Other" in Canadian Immigration." Disability Studies Quarterly, vol. 36, no. 3, 2016. https://doi.org/10.18061/dsq.v36i3.5055
  • Fine, Michael and Caroline Glendinning. "Dependence, Independence or Inter-Dependence? Revisiting the Concepts of 'Care' and 'Dependency'." Aging & Society, vol. 25, 2005, pp. 601-621. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0144686X05003600
  • George, Miriam. "Migration Traumatic Experiences and Refugee Distress: Implications for Social Work Practice." Clinical Social Work Journal, vol. 40, no. 4, 2012, pp. 429-37. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10615-012-0397-y
  • Gibson, Barbara E., Franco A. Carnevale, and Gillian King. "This Is My Way: Reimagining Disability, In/dependence and Interconnectedness of Persons and Assistive Technologies." Disability and Rehabilitation, vol. 34, no. 22, 2012, pp. 1894-1899. https://doi.org/10.3109/09638288.2012.670040
  • Human Rights Watch. "EU: Ensure Aid Reaches Refugees with Disabilities. Improve Monitoring of Refugee Assistance Funds." March 27, 2017, hrw.org.
  • Kamara, Mariatu, and Susan McClelland. The Bite of the Mango. Annick Press, 2008.
  • Karanja, Michael. "Disability in Contexts of Displacement." Disability Studies Quarterly, vol. 29, no. 4, 2009. https://doi.org/10.18061/dsq.v29i4.969
  • Kittay, Eva Feder. "The Ethics of Care, Dependence, and Disability." Ratio Juris, vol. 24, no. 1, 2011, pp. 49-58. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9337.2010.00473.x
  • ---. "Moral Obligations to the Dependency Worker." Love's Labour: Essays on Women, Equality, and Dependency, Routledge, 1999, pp. 64-75.
  • Mirza, Mansha. "Refugee Camps, Asylum Detention, and the Geopolitics of Transnational Migration: Disability and its Intersections with Humanitarian Confinement." Disability Incarcerated: Imprisonment and Disability in the United States and Canada, edited by Liat Ben-Moshe, Chris Chapman, and Allison C. Carey. Palgrave Macmillan, 2014, pp. 217-236. https://doi.org/10.1057/9781137388476_12
  • Mitchell, David T., and Sharon L. Snyder. Narrative Prosthesis: Disability and the Dependencies of Discourse. University of Michigan, 2000.
  • ---. "Narrative." Keywords for Disability Studies. Ed. Rachel Adams, Benjamin Reiss, and David Serlin. NYU Press, 2015, pp. 126-30.
  • Mohamed, Nadifa. The Orchard of Lost Souls. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013.
  • Quayson, Ato. "Disability and Contingency." Calibrations: Reading for the Social, University of Minnesota, 2003, pp. 99-124.
  • Schmidt, Elizabeth. Foreign Intervention in Africa: From the Cold War to the War on Terror. Cambridge University Press, 2013. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139021371
  • Shivji, Aleema. "Disability in Displacement." Forced Migration Review - Disability and Displacement, vol. 35, 2010, pp. 4-7.
  • Siebers, Tobin. Disability Theory. University of Michigan Press, 2008. https://doi.org/10.3998/mpub.309723
  • Smith-Khan, Laura, Mary Crock, Ben Saul, and Ron McCallum. "To 'Promote, Protect and Ensure': Overcoming Obstacles to Identifying Disability in Forced Migration." Journal of Refugee Studies, vol. 28, no. 1, 2015, pp. 38-68. https://doi.org/10.1093/jrs/feu020
  • Stein, Barry N. "The Refugee Experience: Defining the Parameters of a Field of Study." International Migration Review, vol. 15, no. 1, 1981, pp. 320-30. https://doi.org/10.2307/2545346
  • Thomson, Rosemarie Garland. "Theorizing Disability: Feminist Theory, the Body, and the Disabled Figure." Relocating Postcolonialism. Eds. David Theo Goldberg and Ato Quayson. Blackwell Publishers, 2002, pp. 231-270.
  • Toivanen, Anna-Leena. "The Unattainable Mediterranean: Arrested Clandestine Odysseys in Sefi Atta's "Twilight Trek" and Marie NDiaye's Trois femmes puissantes." Research in African Literatures, vol. 47, no. 4, 2017, pp. 133-151. https://doi.org/10.2979/reseafrilite.47.4.08
  • UN General Assembly, Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, 28 July 1951, United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 189.
  • United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. "Refugees: Flowing Across Borders." UNHCR: The UN Refugee Agency.

Endnotes

  1. The particular focus on African literature and the experience of the African refugee in this paper is intended to diversify the field of disability studies, one that has thus far been "dominated by global North concerns" despite the fact that "The majority of the world's displaced people live in the Global South" (El-Lahib; Crock et. al The Legal Protection 115).
    Return to Text
  2. While I focus on physical disabilities that complicate mobility, let it be noted that a multitude of other disabilities exist, both visible and invisible, that within the same context of flight would also pose complications for the refugee. Blindness (such as the "nyintok" in the Lost Boys of Sudan [Eggers 313]), muteness (such as child soldier sappers who have had their vocal cords cut to prevent screaming [Abani]), and amputation (such as the injuries derived from landmines in Sierra Leone [Kamara]) are some examples of displaced African characters in literature who illustrate this and represent areas for further research.
    Return to Text
  3. The blurb on the back of the 2006 Picador edition of the novel goes so far as to name the setting as "war-torn Congo."
    Return to Text
  4. Stasis in flight builds on but departs from Anna-Leena Toivanen's theorization of "clandestine" travel within the undocumented or illegal African immigrant. Toivanen characterizes such individuals as being sentenced to a "stagnation-in-movement" once they are caught by immigration officials and relocated to detention centers and camps. While my attention to stasis in flight sheds light on the vulnerability of migrant subjectivity that Toivanen highlights, I delineate my work by focusing on states of contested agency during flight within the refugee and refugee with disabilities. While these experiences can include the types of illegal migration and identification manipulation Toivanen refers to, it is not limited to them. Whereas her stagnation-in-movement derives from acts of illegality due to the "clandestine" nature of the migratory act, my stasis in flight incorporates all forms of refugee flight regardless of its legality and visibility.
    Return to Text
  5. Her autonomy in this moment stands out when it is contrasted with the earlier scene of her beating by Filsan. Following the attack, Kawsar is immediately lifted by an officer against her will. Her screams and protests in this moment, "My hip is broken. In the name of God put me down, I beg you, put me down" are silenced when she loses consciousness (Mohamed 44). The significant lack of autonomy in this situation is notably absent in the later instances when Filsan and Deqo carry her in the wheelbarrow.
    Return to Text
  6. An act that led to Kawsar's beating by Filsan as punishment.
    Return to Text
  7. I do not intend to suggest that either individual is completely useless if they remain in their homes, merely that movement away from an area of conflict enables them to be more helpful to others than if they were to stay.
    Return to Text
Return to Top of Page


Copyright (c) 2019 Alexander C. Dawson

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Volume 1 through Volume 20, no. 3 of Disability Studies Quarterly is archived on the Knowledge Bank site; Volume 20, no. 4 through the present can be found on this site under Archives.

Beginning with Volume 36, Issue No. 4 (2016), Disability Studies Quarterly is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives license unless otherwise indicated. 

Disability Studies Quarterly is published by The Ohio State University Libraries in partnership with the Society for Disability Studies.

If you encounter problems with the site or have comments to offer, including any access difficulty due to incompatibility with adaptive technology, please contact libkbhelp@lists.osu.edu.

ISSN: 2159-8371 (Online); 1041-5718 (Print)