The Risks of Refusal. When Exile Becomes Wandering: Subjects in Search of a Place

By Maud Delahaye

The notions of place and wandering arise in clinical encounters with subjects in a situation of exile, in manifest or latent ways. The current era is marked by the hardening of migration policies, consubstantial with the violence of the rise of the extreme right. While the cleavage between the inside and outside of territories is at the centre of politics, the difference between welcoming and refusing foreigners sometimes appears unclear and thus foments its insidious aspect. Rejection and refusal exacerbate the “discontinuous” nature of the exile situation (Said, 2001, p. 757) and can turn it into an experience “at the limit” (Zaltzman, 1999). Subjects in exile are caught in a paradox because they are forced to evolve in a space without a place, to be there without existing. The aim of this article is to analyse the notions of wandering and (no-)place based on two clinical encounters and on the inputs of psychoanalysis and clinical psychology articulated with contributions from sociology and philosophy. It is about considering the ways in which exile can be transformed into wandering and what this wandering points out. How for certain exiled subjects the question of the quest for a subjective place unfolds and of what the refusal of the foreigner, beyond the administrative refusal, is the political symptom?

  • exile
  • subjective place
  • wandering
  • trauma
  • desubjectification
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