Counter-narratives of coping and becoming: Karen refugee women’s inside/outside figured worlds

Sarah J. Hoffman, Jessica Dockter Tierney, Cheryl L. Robertson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


The purpose of our research is to understand the socially and culturally constructed architecture within which refugee women produce and negotiate identity. This ethnographic case study discusses findings from data collected through participant observation and informal interviews in two refugee camps along the Thai-Burma border. As Karen refugee women described their positionality within and negotiation between the socially constructed Inside and Outside Figured Worlds of the refugee camp, they depict the negotiation of a hybrid Third Space. Created at the intersection of the refugee camp structures that dominate individual agency and the discourses of gender and displacement that influence the social practices of women, this third space is characterized by the response strategies Karen women engage to support individual, family, and community health. Within the transformational spaces that refugee women constructed, the processes of coping and becoming reflected the relationship between structure and agency. Within these intersections a woman could express her resistance to a system that in its design represented a majority she was not a part of. As Karen refugee women moved to redesign their position within these systems, shifts in meaning of cultural norms resulted, inclusive of those that influence or define the role of women.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1346-1364
Number of pages19
JournalGender, Place and Culture
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Burma/Myanmar
  • Karen refugee women
  • figured world
  • forced migration
  • gender
  • identity
  • third space


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