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RSC Public Seminar Series, Michaelmas Term: Refugee Economies

Conveners: Alexander Betts and Naohiko Omata

In recent academic and policy arenas in forced migration, the issue of how to understand refugees’ economic lives has emerged as one of the most pressing agendas. This seminar series will therefore gather leading scholars who have been working on related issues in order to consolidate the empirical and theoretical knowledge of refugee economies. Speakers will be convened from diverse and inter-disciplinary backgrounds from anthropology, economics, and political science. In addition to knowledge building, this seminar series is intended to initiate nurturing wider networks of researchers working on economic lives of refugees and to establish a common space for exchanging ideas, discussing findings and challenges.

This week Professor Morten Bøås will address the topic 'Navigating Nakivale: the borderland economy of a refugee camp':

Nakivale Refugee Settlement is the oldest refugee camp still in operation in Africa. Originally established in 1959 as a temporary solution to the plight of refugees (mainly Tutsi) from the Hutu-initiated "social revolution" in Rwanda, it has been in constant operation ever since as conflicts and civil wars in the region have continued to force people to leave their homes in countries such as Burundi, DR Congo, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Rwanda, Somalia and Sudan for the relative safety of Uganda. Nakivale therefore represents a microcosm of the conflicts in the Great Lakes Region and the Horn of Africa. Hostilities and even open conflict between different groups are common in the settlement. However, there are also controversies between the refugee settlement and local groups that live close to the camp. Some gain from the presence of the refugees, various others lose from it as the very existence of the camp also creates its own set of socio-economic dynamics that some are better placed to navigate, and this is the case for the different groups of refugees as well as various local host communities. This presentation will therefore unpack some of the social-economic paradoxes that a refugee settlement such as Nakivale produces, and how different groups - refugees as well as locals - are affected by these dynamics, but also how they themselves (re)produce these dynamics through different acts of negotiation and navigation of this particular type of borderland economy.

About the speaker

Morten Bøås, PhD, is Research Professor and works predominantly on issues concerning peace and conflict in Africa, including issues such as land rights and citizenship conflicts, youths, ex-combatants and the new landscape of insurgencies and geopolitics.

Bøås has authored, co-authored and co-edited several books and published a number of articles for academic journals. He has conducted in-depth fieldwork in a number of African countries and travelled widely elsewhere on the continent.