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'#Refugees can be entrepreneurs too!’ Humanitarianism, race, and the marketing of Syrian refugees

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Lewis TurnerORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


In the context of a greater focus on the politics of migration, the‘refugee entrepreneur’has become anincreasingly important figure in humanitarian, media, and academic portrayals of refugees. Through afocus on Jordan’sZa‘tari refugee camp, which has been deemed a showcase for refugees’‘entrepreneur-ship’, this article argues that the designation of Syrian refugees as‘entrepreneurs’is a positioning ofSyrians within colonial hierarchies of race that pervade humanitarian work. For many humanitarianworkers in Jordan, Syrians’‘entrepreneurship’distinguishes them from‘African’refugees, who are ima-gined as passive, impoverished, and dependent on humanitarian largesse. Without explicit racial compar-isons, humanitarian agencies simultaneously market Syrian refugees online as‘entrepreneurs’, to enablethem to be perceived as closer to whiteness, and to thereby render them more acceptable to Western audi-ences and donors, who are imagined as white. This article extends scholarly understandings of the under-studied relationship between race and humanitarianism. Furthermore, it asks critical questions about thepolitical work and effects of vision of the‘refugee entrepreneur’, which it locates within the context of theincreasingly neoliberalised refugee regime.‘Refugee entrepreneurs’do not need political support and soli-darity, but to be allowed to embrace the forces of free-market capitalism.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Turner L

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Review of International Studies

Year: 2020

Volume: 46

Issue: 1

Pages: 137-155

Print publication date: 01/01/2020

Online publication date: 25/10/2019

Acceptance date: 19/09/2019

Date deposited: 03/08/2020

ISSN (print): 0260-2105

ISSN (electronic): 1469-9044

Publisher: Cambridge University Press


DOI: 10.1017/S0260210519000342


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