Time and the other in crisis: how anthropology makes its displaced object

Georgina Ramsay*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

73 Citations (Scopus)


Displacement is typically approached in anthropology as an exceptional experience that is associated with refugees and forced migration. Recent representations of a migration ‘crisis’ have reinforced the exceptionality attached to displacement. Drawing on research conducted with people in both refugee and non-refugee contexts, in this article I put forward a more expansive theorisation of displacement as a sense of temporal dispossession. Additionally, I describe how, by characterising refugees and other migrants as people who occupy a temporality that is distinguished by their migration status, anthropology denies coevalness with and between migrants and non-migrants and thereby reinforces the very logics of otherness that we might otherwise seek to critique. Recognising the shared temporal rhythms of displacement, and how these manifest broadly as the effects of global capitalism and neoliberal restructurings, is one way through which anthropologists can strengthen our analyses and critiques of bordering structures. We must firmly situate refugees and migrants within these shared rhythms of displacement, rather than exceptionalise them through the lens of ‘crisis’.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)385-413
Number of pages29
JournalAnthropological Theory
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020


  • capitalism
  • coevalness
  • crisis
  • displacement
  • migrants
  • refugees
  • temporality


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