The refugee label acknowledges the plight of people marginalized, oppressed and pushed to the periphery of society. While having this status affords a number of rights from countries signatory to the 1951 UN convention, the concept of ‘refugeehood’ within resettlement contexts can become a master status that defines a person above and beyond any other form of identity. Drawing upon political theories of recognition, this dilemma is addressed by examining the powerful current Western discourses on trauma where refugees are often situated. It is then contextualized, using the example of Sudanese men resettled in Australia to differentiate ordinary and extraordinary stories of lived experience. This distinction provides a helpful framework for developing more sophisticated understandings of how people have responded to trauma beyond the ‘event-worthy’ underpinnings of forced migration.