Refugee Studies is any activity that entails knowledge creation, data collection and data analysis with and by displaced people.
Like other research subjects, Refugee Studies does not exist in a vacuum outside the social world therefore it is not a neutral subject nor is its researchers or research participants. Yet the research designs and processes in the Refugee Studies literature review is hyper focused on the idea that refugees are ‘invisible actors’ and a source of investigation.
The gap in the literature review is probably due to the imbalance power relations, between the researcher and research respondents, manifested in the research design, process, and dissemination. Traditionally, Refugee Studies researchers adopt an etic perspective to investigate the refugee crisis as many of these researchers are predominantly from the Global North and/or exist outside the refugee community. As such, the problem with the etic perspective is that it is saturated in cultural bias, ethnocentrism and paternalism, and researchers who adopt this perspective commonly use refugees as tokens to validate their investigations.
On the other hand, some researchers argue that if researchers engage with the refugee community as visible actors and agents of change, the emic perspective may stimulate better communication between researchers and the researched community, and encourage the development of insider knowledge. As such, Refugee Studies will greatly benefit as the active voices of refugees will challenge the stereotype about the refugee community and encourage more knowledge creation about refugeehood. ©
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Dona, G., Esim, C. & Lounasmaa, A. (2020). ‘Qualitative Research in Refugee Studies’ in Atkinson, P., Delamont, S., Cernat, A., Sakshaug, J.W. & Williams, R.A. SAGE Research Methods Foundations. London: SAGE Publication Ltd. DOI: 10.4135/97815264210361
Harrell-Bond, B. & Voutira, E. 2007. ‘In Search of ‘Invisible Actors: Barriers to Access in Refugee Research’, Journal of Refugee Studies 20(2),281-298. DOI: 10.1093/jrs/fem015
Kabranian-Melkonian, S. 2015. ‘Ethical Concerns with Refugee Research’, Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment, 25(7), 714-722. DOI: 10.1080/10911359.2015.1032634
Refugee Studies Centre. 2007. ‘Ethical Guidelines for Good Research Practice’, Refugee Survey Quarterly 26(3), 163-172. DOI: 10.1093/rsq/hdi0250
Temple, B. & Moran, R. 2007. ‘Doing Research with Refugees: Issues and Guidelines’, Journal of Refugee Studies 20(4), 673-674. DOI: 10.1093/jrs/fem043