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This international conference considers the issue of ‘democratizing’ refugee protection

Democratizing Displacement

Conference programme and podcasts

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.

1) 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.

2) 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.

3) 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.

Download the Call for Papers


Conference location: New College, Holywell Street, Oxford, OX1 3BN.



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)

Annual Elizabeth Colson Lecture

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

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.

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A celebration of the life of David Turton

Saturday, 20 July 2024, 2pm to 3pm @ The Crypt Cafe, St Peters Church, Northchurch Terrace, London N1 4DA