“Is it Commerce?”: Dehumanization in the Framing of Refugees as Resources


  • Yolanda Weima York University, Toronto, Canada




dehumanization, animalization, refugees-as-resources, discourse analysis, race


The idea that “refugees are resources” has been promoted as countering the dehumanization that frames refugees as burdens or security threats. But is framing people as resources truly humanizing? Resource theorists have highlighted how modern Western conceptions of what resources are depends on a distinction between the human and the non-human. This logic is similar to, and originates in the same epoch as, hierarchies of humanity. State appraisal and management of human and mobility continue to be shaped by race and perceptions of productive value in terms, just as the value of resources varies, and has always been social and political. This intervention highlights the perspective of a Burundian refugee in Tanzania who traces continuities between experiences and being called a resource—in that a resource can be sold or traded across borders with no input into its future. Refugees can and do meaningfully contribute to the communities and countries in which they live, but the “resources” lens curtails a truly humanizing perspective on refugees’ lives.


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2021-11-22 — Updated on 2022-04-03


How to Cite

Weima, Y. (2022). “Is it Commerce?”: Dehumanization in the Framing of Refugees as Resources . Refuge: Canada’s Journal on Refugees, 37(2), 20–29. https://doi.org/10.25071/1920-7336.40796 (Original work published November 22, 2021)