Need to know: information literacy, refugee resettlement and the return from the state of exception

PhD Thesis

Richards, Wendy. 2015. Need to know: information literacy, refugee resettlement and the return from the state of exception. PhD Thesis Doctor of Philosophy. University of Southern Queensland.

Need to know: information literacy, refugee resettlement and the return from the state of exception

TypePhD Thesis
AuthorRichards, Wendy
SupervisorMason, Robert
Institution of OriginUniversity of Southern Queensland
Qualification NameDoctor of Philosophy
Number of Pages220

Academic research has developed a considered understanding of displaced communities undergoing resettlement within a refugee receiving country, in areas such as language, literacy, education, employment and housing, gendered identities and past trauma. However, little attention has been paid to the role of information literacy, defined here as those practices, attributes and skills which enable social subjects to obtain the knowledge needed for effective social agency.

The questions guiding the research discussed here concern the effects of information literacy upon newly-arrived communities. How do refugee entrants from differing cultural, language and literacy backgrounds engage with the digitally mediated, text-dense and English language-based information environments of the Global North? What are the risks for new communities of information poverty and social exclusion through information practices that are less able to satisfy the demands of present-day information capitalism?

This research draws on a qualitative, multifocal case study of interviews with resettled members of the South Sudanese community in south-east Queensland and with workers from government and non-government settlement agencies conducted in 2013. The aim of the research is to contribute findings on information literacy in resettlement to academic debates on refugee displacement, resettlement and belonging, as well to enhance the policies and practices which guide Australia’s approach to humanitarian protection.

The research draws upon the theorising of Giorgio Agamben on sovereign authority and the excluded Other. The research develops the concept of ‘information relationship’ to show how information, as a relational practice, is the means through which new knowledge becomes manifest, via liminal intersections of power, race and gender, in refugee lives. The research argues that information, in this relational form, enables the return of the refugee from Agambenian exclusion to the subject position of citizen. However, while information relationships within settlement lead to re-incorporation for the exile within the sovereign state, this re-integration remains partial, contingent and a paradoxical production of both connection and exclusion.

Keywordsinformation literacy; refugees; resettlement; information poverty; information relationship
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020390401. Comparative and cross-cultural education
Byline AffiliationsFaculty of Business, Education, Law and Arts
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