Contextual Identity among Liberian Refugees in Ghana: Identity Salience in a Protracted Refugee Situation

Jennifer Byrne, Jennifer Byrne, Gregory C. Dixon, Amy L. Catalinac

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    The purpose of this study is to examine the impact of a protracted refugee situation on identity among Liberian refugees in Ghana. A strong national identity was observed among Liberians within the context of Buduburam Refugee Camp, despite previous ethnic divisions in their home country during the two Liberian civil wars. According to social identity theory, individuals may hold several identities at one time, but the expression of these identities are dependent on context. Using a grounded theory approach, I find three theoretical explanations for this phenomenon. Three identity primes heightened the salience of being Liberian. First, identity discontinuity resulting from trauma focused awareness on shared past experiences, creating a shared generational identity among residents at Buduburam. Second, a shared refugee status, and third, shared perceptions of difference between the Liberians and Ghanaians, played key roles in activating and sustaining a collective national identity among Liberian refugees in Ghana. Related Articles: Byrne, Jennifer, and Gregory C. Dixon. 2013. “Reevaluating American Attitudes toward Immigrants in the Twenty-First Century: The Role of a Multicreedal National Identity.” Politics & Policy 42 (1): 83-116. Catalinac, Amy L. 2007. “Identity Theory and Foreign Policy: Explaining Japan's Responses to the 1991 Gulf War and the 2003 U.S. War in Iraq.” Politics & Policy 35 (1): 58-100. Simon-Kumar, Rachel, and Catherine Kingfisher. 2011. “Beyond Transformation and Regulation: Productive Tensions and the Analytics of Inclusion.” Politics & Policy 39 (2): 271-294. Related Media: Buduburam. n.d. “Home for Homeless People.” CCTV Africa. 2014. “Liberian Refugees in Ghana.”

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)751-782
    Number of pages32
    JournalPolitics and Policy
    Issue number4
    StatePublished - 2016


    • Asylum Seekers
    • Contextual Identity
    • Ethnic Identity
    • Exile
    • Ghana
    • Grounded Theory Approach
    • Identity Discontinuity
    • Identity Salience
    • Identity and Borders
    • Identity and Difference
    • Intergroup Conflict
    • Intergroup Relations
    • Liberia
    • Liberian Civil Wars
    • National Identity
    • Protracted Refugees
    • Refugees
    • Social Construction of Identity
    • Social Identity Theory
    • Sub-Saharan Africa

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Sociology and Political Science
    • Political Science and International Relations


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