The current study investigates how asylum-seeking African women use talk about emotion to construct empowered roles for themselves. A discourse analysis was conducted on interviews with African asylum-seeking women. Participants used two interacting repertoires, ‘rejecting pity’ and ‘being strong’, to resist inferior positions. By constructing themselves as strong and not needing pity, participants positioned themselves as in control of their lives, and thus presented as responsible and capable mothers, a role they are accountable for. Clinical implications and findings for future research are discussed.

Author Biography

Maria Clare is a graduate clinical psychologist from Coventry University and the University of Warwick. As well as the issues faced by refugees and asylum seekers, including human rights, trauma and health and wellbeing, her interests include children and families, attachment through the lifespan and resilience. Maria was the Principal Investigator and led the research included in the article.

Simon Goodman is a senior lecturer in psychology at Coventry University. His research explores the discursive construction of asylum seekers and refugees, and his interests include discourse analysis, the social construction of categories, boundaries and prejudice, particularly in relation to asylum seeking, social inequality, the far right and rioting behaviour.

Helen Liebling is a Lecturer-Practitioner in Clinical Psychology, Coventry University. Helen has been carrying out applied research with survivors of conflict and post-conflict sexual violence and torture in Africa since 1998. Helen’s two book publications include ‘Ugandan Women War Survivors’ (Liebling-Kalifani, 2009) and ‘Justice and Health Provision for Survivors of Sexual Violence’ (Liebling & Baker, 2010). She has carried out consultancies, training and interventions to enhance support for conflict survivors in conjunction with Isis-WICCE, Kampala.

Hannah Laing is a Housing Officer at the Coventry Refugee and Migrant Centre, where she assists with a housing project and with providing advice for refugees, migrants and asylum seekers. The project aims to provide supported accommodation to clients, assisting them with integrating into the UK. Previously, Hannah worked as a primary school teacher in Bath.