Language of the Oppressed: Boon of Nature and Curse of Humans in the Life of a Refugee

N. Lavanya[1] & M. Anjumkhan[2]

[1]  Avinashilingam Institute for Home Science and Higher Education for Women, Email:, Orcid: 0000-0002-9058-1931

[2]  Avinashilingam Institute for Home Science and Higher Education for Women, Email:, Orcid ID: 0000-0003-2594-721X


Refugees all over the world are pushed to a situation of being afraid to use their cultural identities as a result of the cruelty of oppression. Language is central in the identification of the oppressed group and this in turn, enhances the fear of using their language in public. Nature has always been a greater element than humankind, in treating all living things in the world with love and respect. Using silence as its language of communication, it provides itself in abundance to everyone and never discriminates anyone. This essay focuses on comparing and differentiating the life of refugees as a result of love existing in nature and hatred present in humankind, with reference to the memoir ‘Little Daughter’ by Zoya Phan. The memoir is analysed with an anthropogenic view of how a human with power and superiority can play a major role in destroying nature as well as other humans. It explains how the power of nature takes humans towards equality but, the power of humans is a trip towards destruction caused due to discrimination. The theoretical framework is constructed based on the essay ‘That Which You Are Denying Us’ by Lyndsey Stonebridge, which explains the refugees’ problems of being voiceless ones with no right to any language. The essay is categorized under three sub- headings ‘Life of the oppressed’, ‘Love of nature’ and ‘Language of the voiceless’ to examine the effect of language restriction, equality in nature and the use of English as the language of liberation by the refugees with reference to the select memoir.

Keywords: Refugees, Oppression, Language, Nature, English


Bareka, T. (2019). “Refugee children and body politics: The embodied political self and dance movement therapy Body, Movement and Dance in Psychotherapy”. An International Journal for Theory, Research and Practice. 14 (2), 80-94.

Bloch, A &Hirsch, S. (2017). “Second generation refugees and multilingualism: identity, race and language transmission”. Ethnic and Racial Studies. 40 (14), 1-19.

Collyer, M. (2014). “Geographies of Forced Migration”. In Elena, F., Gil, L., Katy., L, and Nando, S. Eds. The Oxford Handbook of Refugee and Forced Migration Studies. UK: Oxford University Press. pp. 108-116.

Dzankic, J. (2016). “Migration, citizenship and post-national membership”. Anna, T ed. Routledge Handbook of Immigration and Refugee Studies. London: Routledge. pp.163-168.

Jacobsen, K. (2014). “Livelihoods and Forced Migration”. In Elena, Q, Gil, L, Katy, L, Nando S, eds. The Oxford Handbook of Refugee and Forced Migration Studies. UK: Oxford University Press. pp.99- 110.

Johnson, D & Gilligan, R. (2020). “Youth agency in everyday precarity: the experiences of young
migrants and refugees growing up on the Thailand-Myanmar border”. Journal of Youth Studies. 24 (2), 1-20.

Kadt, Elizabeth. (1993). “Language, power, and emancipation in South Africa”. World Englishes. 12 (2), 157- 158.

Nawarat, N. (2012). “Thailand education policy for migrant children from Burma”. Procedia: Social and Behavioral Sciences. (47), 956-961.

O’Reilly, K. (2016). “Migration theories A critical overview”. In Triandfyllidou, A ed, Routledge Handbook of Immigration and Refugee Studies. Oxford: Routledge. pp. 25-33.

Phan, Z. (2009). Little daughter: A memoir of survival in Burma and the west. Canada, Penguin publishers. Rosbrook, B & Robert D. (2010). “The meaning of home for Karen and Chin refugees from Burma: An interpretative phenomenological approach”. European Journal of Psychotherapy & Counselling. 12(2),159-172.

Saraithong, W., & Chancharoenchai, K. (2013). “Labour’s language skill in the liberalisation era: A case of Thai vocational students’ English proficiency”. International Journal of Management Cases. 14 (4), 351-372. Stonebridge, L. (2013). “That Which You are Denying Us: Refugees, rights and writing in Arendt”. In Gert B, Samuel, D., Robert, E. Eds The future of trauma theory: Contemporary literary and cultural Criticism. New York: Routledge. pp. 113-125

Thomas, R. (2016). “The Right to Quality Education for Refugee Children through Social Inclusion”. Journal of Human Rights and Social Work. (1), 193–201.