Repositioning of ‘self’: Social recognition as a path to resilience for destitute asylum seekers in the United Kingdom

Author(s): Fiona CUTHILL


Resilience is increasingly seen as an asset for health, especially so for people living in marginalised spaces, where ill health is often associated with a lack of agency and a passive approach to tackling life’s adversities. People who find themselves destitute following the asylum process are a group who occupy a vulnerable position and the purpose of this study was to interrogate the ways in which resilience is revealed within this context. In this paper, the dominant casting of asylum seekers as ‘vulnerable’ is challenged in order to explore new contours of resilience. This ethnographic study explored the lived experience of destitution and the findings demonstrate that contrary to the nascent literature that foregrounds vulnerability in destitution, resilience can be found within these narratives of struggle. Importantly, agency is demonstrated in the multiple ways that the participants actively sought to reject the label of ‘asylum seeker’ and were able to use identity work to achieve internal and social recognition. This ‘struggle for recognition’ developed resilient outcomes in the harshest of conditions.


asylum seeeker, destitution, resilience, vulnerability, ethnography

Tags: United Kingdom, Asylum seekers, Vulnerability, Destitution, Poverty, Resilience, Social recognition

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