HOMInG’s Sara Bonfanti will give a presentation at the forthcoming international “Migration Conference” at the University of Bari [https://www.migrationconference.net].
Her presentation falls within the session on Outside the boundaries of reception. The social trajectories, material conditions and geographic mobility of asylum seekers and beneficiaries outside the Italian system of international protection. The session has been convened by Giuliana Sanò and Francesco Della Puppa.
See the abstract of Sara’s presentation below.
Sara Bonfanti – The beats of refugeeism: dwelling trajectories of a Pakistani asylum seeker in Italy, a life story approach

Dismantling the rhetoric of refugeeism, often battered in public opinion or even in migratory – security policies, life stories are more than a narrative device to elicit empathy from an audience: the person is indeed the active node of context and history (Lévy 1994).
The proposed contribution considers one personal case study, emblematic of the asylum seeking tides mounted in Italy over the past decade. Shaneer is a middle aged man, fled from Pakistan under death threats, after forsaking a Weapons’ Lord, irregularly routed through the Balkans and lastly reaching the Italian frontier.
We sit facing each other in a fire lit coffee shop on a January afternoon. He did not agree into letting me visit his apartment (assigned by local authorities under the housing scheme for refugees in a Northern Italian city), that he shared then with two young males from West Africa. As he pours out his heart in a broken English, I’m abashed by his miseries: the life hazards he survived on the move, his wife left back home and since divorced from him, remarried to another man who took up step fatherhood for his daughter. He quivers when he recollects the months spent hidden in a deserted farmhouse in Apulia, informally hired to harvest olives, while suffering the bangs of hunger and dreaming of his little girl to take him home by the hand (where he has not set foot for seven years). Shaneer interprets our encounter as a sign of destiny and a moment of relief. He needs not to prove the authenticity of his distress to a scrutinizing officer, to conform to prescribed narratives or to “the governance of things” (Cabot 2012), pleading for an asylum permit which might last release his living anxieties, and that in fact will be accorded to him a month after, Inshallah. Three years since his first appeal, Shaneer is issued a humanitarian protection permit; quietly evicted, he reaches out to me again seeking for another address to call home in exile (Groenseth and Davis 2010).
Shaneer’s refugee experience illuminates context and history, interlacing scales and temporalities of escapes and stays. On one side, his fleeing is embedded in the mass persecution of Ahmadis in Pakistan, unorthodox and outlaw Muslim minority, and in his cajoled involvement in paramilitary actions. On another, his runaways and long-term domestic mobility across Italy relate the turmoil of seeking asylum outside (within and beyond) ‘the boundaries of reception’. Once being granted at last with humanitarian protection, there seems to be no respite in his search for steadiness.
Revisiting Shaneer’s life history I will focus expressly upon his dwelling trajectories: from lack of shelter, to inadequate lodgement, to his perceived housing career. His own recounting of the many and unlikely homes occupied in quest of refuge enables us to discuss wider social, political and institutional implications. Citing Crapanzano (1984: 3) “Personal history – and its various objectifications […]— are indeed presumptions on our part no less compelling than the presumption that souls can be counted.”