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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

1999, Vol. 2 No. 2 .

Losing Place: Refugee Populations and Rural Transformations in East Africa
Johnathan Bascom

(New York: Berghahn Books, 1998)
200pp. Index. Bibl. Hb.: 25.00; ISBN 1-57181-083-8

Increasingly, the displacement of civilian population - under the guise of 'ethnic cleansing' or some other pretext - is no longer just the byproduct of war, but a goal in its own right. The human suffering which underlies it, as well as its impact on regional peace and security, has brought into sharp focus the ways in which different categories of people are marginal to the states in which they live and the various forms of insecurity confronting them. Empirically rooted in East Africa, Johnathan Bascom's book demonstrates in a dramatic way the catastrophic insecurity of ordinary people in circumstances where states - and the international system of states - are either unable to provide protection or are themselves the principal sources of violence.

Detailed, as it is informative, this book probes the economic forces and social processes responsible for shaping the everyday existence for refugees as they move through exile. It reformulates the idea of refugee integration as an ongoing process of active straturation - between refugees, the host community, and the external actors such as states, relief agencies, and the global economy - that pivots on changing relationships of conflict and inequity. The central, and justifiable, claim of the book is that all facets of the refugee experience - migration, resettlement, repatriation and reintegration - represent an ongoing process of choice made and played out in a changing regional/global context. In a significant and timely way, the book highlights the plight of a population without protection from any state - some falling prey to the remnants of the very state that was once supposed to be their protector.

Nana Poku
Southampton University

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