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Celebrity Refugees: Telling of Trauma and Celebrating Success

Shauna Labman, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Manitoba

Published April 19, 2018 by Technologies of Justice.

On January 26, 2018, Shauna Labman hosted a discussion entitled Celebrity Refugees: Telling of Trauma and Celebrating Success in the session on People and Food: Intersections of Law, Politics, Technology and Culture. This session took place at the Technologies of Justice Conference, held at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology. 



Labman explained the concept of 'celebrity refugees,' where refugees gain attention through their arrival to the country (through the media or related stories), and articulate refugee peoples are used in refugee advocacy. She pointed out that refugees are not often draining on society or pulling on resources, and stressed the need for refugees to be seen as contributing people who are a part of society, who can be successful and who should not be feared. She demonstrated the effect refugee protection and public support can have on refugees, and how media is sometimes used for obtaining public understanding for refugees to help them gain private sponsorship by going to media and bringing real refugee narratives to life.
Labman questioned the need for public profiles and media coverage for these traumatized people, explaining the relationship between media and law. She described how there is often an initial telling of trauma, a retelling of trauma, potential tales of refugee death, and how these stories of trauma are often paired with stories of success creating a dual existence. She questioned the need for personal history to define refugees, and whether it is necessary to see refugees as only refugees who must relive their trauma and continue working with and as refugees, even after their successful integration as citizens.