Universiteit Leiden

nl en

Lecture | LIMS seminar

Strangers and Hosts: (un)welcoming attitudes and spaces of refuge in contemporary urban Tanzania

  • Dr. Catherina Wilson Janssens (History)
Tuesday 15 February 2022
Leiden Interdisciplinary Migration Seminars 2021-2022
Cleveringaplaats 1
2311 BD Leiden

Refugees who find themselves in situations of protracted displacement do not stop their lives. They work hard to make a living, to feel protected and to be loved. What does it mean for them to be in a city where they do not belong, but where they need to fit in regardless of the hostile national policies? In Dar es Salaam, refugees find themselves in a limbo: some are illegal and can be sent away any moment, others are not legal nor illegal but, nevertheless, stuck in waiting. How are these strangers perceived by the Tanzanians? Can we grasp the dynamics around their lives when we consider them 'strangers'? Strangers are 'normal' in  African cities, where traveling and going are part of life. Throughout history, the codes to receive strangers have been multiple and hosting a stranger can be a high good. National laws, however, do not reflect these old (forgotten) customs. Where in the past displaced people would be welcomed strangers, today's governments define them as non-citizens and chase them away. Yet, the embedded social norms of receiving strangers can be stronger than these 'modern' laws. Based on data collected through ethnographic fieldwork, in particular life stories, this presentation looks at refugees as strangers and analyze how they are received by their host societies in Dar es Salaam. The stories portray solidarity and exploitation and point to the rich diversity of urban life. They underscore, on the one hand, the insecurity resulting from the lack of clear rules, while, on the other, they bring about the creative ways strangers and hosts alike find to circumvent these laws in the hope of creating a living together. 


The Leiden Interdisciplinary Migration Seminars (LIMS) aim at fostering further discussion across disciplines on migration-related topics and creating an open dialogue between the speakers and the attendees. The seminars are a platform for those at Leiden University working on migration-related topics.

More information

This website uses cookies.  More information.