Cookies on this website
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Continue' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.
Skip to main content

This international conference will consider the issue of ‘democratizing’ refugee protection

Democratizing Displacement

Conference programme

Download the conference programme here >> (pdf 2.17 MB)

Session podcasts are available here >>

Call for papers

Pushed from their homes, refugees and displaced people typically find themselves subject to a range of policies, practices and powers over which they have no say. The lives of refugees are intimately and dramatically shaped by actors – states, international organisations, humanitarian NGOs, local host communities amongst others – who make decisions that affect their well-being but are rarely accountable to their interests and goals. How might refugees become more effective political actors in shaping the forces and institutions that govern their own lives?


The Refugee Studies Centre’s 2019 Conference aims to consider the issue of ‘democratizing’ refugee protection from a variety of disciplinary angles, including ethics, politics, anthropology, history and law. It proposes to examine the role of refugees as political agents able to inform the decisions that affect them at local, state, regional and global levels. The Conference will explore the ethics and politics of accountability, participation, and humanitarian governance; the character of practical, institutional and legal mechanisms to ensure that refugees have a say in their protection; and ways in which those who make decisions in relation to the displaced are (or could be) held accountable for their actions.


We are interested in receiving academic paper proposals from scholars in the social sciences and the humanities in the following broad areas.

  • Historical, contemporary and theoretical analysis of:
    • displaced people as political agents in democratic and non-democratic political systems for different ends and goals;
    • displaced people as actors engaging in resistance and political protest.
    • Examination and critical analysis of the legal and institutional mechanisms to ensure accountability of those whose actions affect refugees, and their linkage with participatory processes.
    • The exploration of future pathways – in terms of normative ideals, legal constructions, or institutional designs – that increase the political agency of refugees and other displaced people.


The conference will take place at New College, Holywell Street, Oxford, OX1 3BN.

Further information

For further information about the conference, please contact Susanna Power at

Download the Call for Papers



Photos, clockwise from top left: Refugees at the Greece-Macedonia border plead for the border to reopen to the thousands stranded there due to border closings, 2015. Credit: Steve Evans (CC BY-NC 2.0). Röszke makeshift refugee camp from the Hungarian side of the Serbia-Hungary border, 2016. © UNHCR/Zsolt Balla. Refugees voting for new representatives, Lóvua Resettlement Centre, Angola. Credit: © UNHCR/Omotola Akindipe. New College, Oxford. Credit: Michael Brace (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

RSC Conference 2017: 'Beyond Crisis: Rethinking Refugee Studies'

The RSC hosted this international conference on 16-17 March 2017.

Find out more

Annual Harrell-Bond Lecture

The Annual Harrell-Bond Lecture is named in honour of Dr Barbara Harrell-Bond, the founding Director of the Refugee Studies Centre. It is held each year in Michaelmas term.

Find out more

Annual Elizabeth Colson Lecture

The Annual Elizabeth Colson Lecture is held in Trinity term. It is named after Professor Elizabeth Colson, a renowned anthropologist.

Find out more

Public Seminar Series

Each term the RSC holds a series of public seminars, held on Wednesday evenings at Queen Elizabeth House.

Find out more

Connect with us

To keep up to date with our events and activities, sign up for email alerts from the RSC and Forced Migration Review, and connect with us on social media.

Find out more

Forthcoming events

Intergenerational impacts of IDPs on children’s early childhood development in host communities: evidence from Burundi

Tuesday, 28 May 2019, 1pm to 2pm @ Meeting Room A, Oxford Department of International Development, Queen Elizabeth House, 3 Mansfield Road, Oxford, OX1 3TB

Sonopolis: Sound, citizenship, and migrant activisms in Athens

Wednesday, 29 May 2019, 5pm to 6.30pm @ Seminar Room 1, Oxford Department of International Development, 3 Mansfield Road, Oxford OX1 3TB

What would an ethical, but feasible, response to the refugee crisis look like? An exploration

Tuesday, 04 June 2019, 1pm to 2pm @ Meeting Room A, Oxford Department of International Development, Queen Elizabeth House, 3 Mansfield Road, Oxford, OX1 3TB

A Mobile Milieu: Humanitarian Equipment and the Politics of Need | Annual Elizabeth Colson Lecture 2019

Wednesday, 05 June 2019, 5pm to 6.30pm @ Seminar Room 3, Oxford Department of International Development, Queen Elizabeth House, 3 Mansfield Road, Oxford OX1 3TB

From emergency shelters to dwellings: on the role of refugees as architects and the construction of dwellings in Zaatari Camp, Jordan

Tuesday, 11 June 2019, 1pm to 2pm @ Meeting Room A, Oxford Department of International Development, Queen Elizabeth House, 3 Mansfield Road, Oxford, OX1 3TB