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Department of Anthropology

Academic Staff

Publication details for Professor Gina Porter

Hampshire, K., Porter, G. , Kilpatrick, K., Kyei, P., Adjaloo, M. & Oppong, G. (2008). Liminal spaces: changing inter-generational relations among long-term Liberian refugees in Ghana. Human Organization 67(1): 25-36.

Author(s) from Durham


This paper reports on changing inter-generational relations among long-term Liberian refugees in the Buduburam settlement
camp in Ghana. Four months of fieldwork were conducted in the settlement, using a range of qualitative methods to elicit emic
understandings of the nature and causes of changes in inter-generational relations: focus groups, individual interviews, participant
observation, and diary-keeping by refugees. Various aspects of the refugee experience, in particular the strategies used by young
people to cope with long-term livelihood insecurity, are seen by camp inhabitants to have led to a reconfiguration of relationships
between older and younger people and even to the blurring of generational categories. There is a powerful discourse linking
economic impotence of older people with the erosion of inter-generational relations of authority and deference. This is seen to
have encouraged both a devaluation of old age and experience within the community and an increase in tensions between young
and old. In response, some older people choose to transgress generational boundaries by adopting aspects of youth culture and
style, while younger people express considerable ambivalence about their own ability to make the transition from youth to
adulthood. We argue that the camp and policy context of Buduburam diminishes the ability of refugees to become full social
and economic adults in their own terms, as well as pushing young people in particular into risky livelihoods strategies. This
has important implications for the ability of everyone, both young and old, to cope with the demands of refugee life.