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Deakin Anthropology Seminar – Randi Irwin: Creditworthiness and Decolonization: Sahrawi youth and the tensions of future immobility

Deakin Anthropology Seminar – Randi Irwin: Creditworthiness and Decolonization: Sahrawi youth and the tensions of future immobility

Event Venue:

Deakin Waterfront 1 Gheringhap StreetGeelong, VIC, 3220, Australia ( Map )

Please join us for our next Deakin Anthropology Seminar on Thursday 6 April with Dr Randi L. Irwin: Creditworthiness and Decolonization: Sahrawi youth and the tensions of future immobility.


This talk examines the centrality of credit and capital in the context of the Sahrawi struggle for the decolonization of Western Sahara, which remains the last colony in Africa. From exile in self-managed refugee camps in Algeria, Sahrawi refugees and the Sahrawi state seek to build transferrable skills that further their preparation for sovereignty in anticipation of a return home to an independent Western Sahara. The Sahrawi state-in-exile participates in future-based markets in natural resource extraction to build evidence of the state’s trustworthiness as an economic partner through the development of legal, political, and economic practices that are seen as necessary for sovereignty. For other Sahrawi refugees, however, the notion that credit may serve as a pathway for liberated, sovereign futures abuts their experiences of credit as entrenching immobility within the refugee camps. This talk explores the tensions and implications of linking decolonization, preparation, and economic practices. While Sahrawis and the state seek to practice sovereignty and build towards decolonization through neoliberal market frameworks that are world-making, the rise of credit and debt generate new mobilities and immobilities for Sahrawis. For youth, the focus on preparing and building their skills through university degrees and work experiences is informed by the hope that they will, one day, achieve sovereignty. However, this preparation can create tension around the present and the anticipated future as Sahrawis invest in and build lives in the refugee camps. Skills might be portable, but the focus on providing for oneself and one’s family via camp-based employment requires tradeoffs and an acquiescence to the demands of a local economy that increasingly relies upon personal responsibility. For some, this raises questions about what is lost in such a trade-off that turns focus away from the decolonization struggle and towards a struggle to be middle class. What are the demands and contradictions embedded within temporalities of credit and debt in the Sahrawi refugee camps? What are the implications of credit as a presumed pathway for “earning” sovereignty?


Randi Irwin is an anthropologist and Lecturer at the University of Newcastle. Her research is focused on the struggle for Western Sahara’s decolonization, led by the Saharawi state in-exile from a refugee camp in Algeria. She has a particular interest in the role of natural resources in mediating knowledge production, territorial rights, formations of citizenship, and legality. Her research has been funded by the National Science Foundation (US) and has been published in The London Review of International Law, The Journal of North African Studies, and Citizenship Studies.


Our speaker will be presenting in-person at Deakin Waterfront: AD1.122 in the Sally Walker building or you can join us via Zoom:

Meeting ID: 844 3620 0390, email for password.


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