“We Are Like a Bat. We Are Neither Birds Nor Animals”: Where the Formal and Informal Collide as Burundian Refugees in Tanzania Struggle for Belonging

  • Lucy Hovil
Part of the Global Diversities book series (GLODIV)


This chapter contrasts Tanzanian state policies of naturalization and the means by which a group of Burundian refugees have, over decades, negotiated spaces for belonging. Although they retained the label ‘refugee’ ascribed to them on arrival, they achieved a kind of de facto subterranean integration amongst their Tanzanian neighbours. An offer of naturalisation from the government presented the possibility of formalising at a national level the local integration they had achieved. However, the process that ensued - in which citizenship was made contingent on relocating elsewhere in Tanzania - became deeply problematic. An exploration of former refugees’ and Tanzanian citizens’ responses to this offer demonstrates the collision of informally negotiated local integration with national belonging and legal recognition. This reveals how political and legal processes intended to legitimise refugees’ presence potentially jeopardises other forms of horizontal and socially determined legitimacy and recognition.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lucy Hovil
    • 1
  1. 1.International Refugee Rights InitiativeKampalaUganda

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