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Examining the origins of refugee and forced migration studies, and charting its future direction

Ibrahim El-Salahi

Nearly four years in the making, The Oxford Handbook of Refugee and Forced Migration Studies, published in June 2014 by Oxford University Press, traces the origins and development of refugee and forced migration studies over the past thirty years and sets out the major challenges facing those working with and on behalf of forced migrants today. Edited by Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, Gil Loescher, Katy Long and Nando Sigona, this authoritative work contains contributions from some of the world’s foremost academics, practitioners and policymakers in the field.

In 2010, the editors first began planning a commemorative volume ahead of the RSC’s 30th anniversary – fêted in 2012 – as a way of celebrating the role played by the RSC in refugee and forced migration studies and of bringing RSC staff together on a joint project. After discussions with Oxford University Press the following year, the project evolved into a major publication as part of the renowned Oxford Handbook series. Ranging across 14 disciplines, the series provides authoritative, comprehensive surveys of original research and debates in specific subjects.

A comprehensive survey

The scope of The Oxford Handbook of Refugee and Forced Migration Studies is twofold: it examines the origins of refugee and forced migration studies, and charts its future direction. In doing this, the authors provide a comprehensive survey of a field that has grown from small, limited origins to encompass a range of disciplines. Not everyone agrees on how exactly forced migration should be defined and where the boundaries of its study should lie, and the book reflects a variety of perspectives, allowing readers to place them in a meaningful – and useful – historical and academic context.

With a recent UN report revealing that there are now more than 50 million forcibly displaced people around the world, and the conflicts driving this displacement looking ever more entrenched, the perspectives, knowledge and experiences contained in this Handbook are more vital than ever. By pausing to look back over the last thirty years of refugee and forced migration studies, the editors hope to give clarity on what can and must be done meet the needs of the displaced.

Writing in the Handbook’s Foreword, António Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, says that 'in addition to being an essential tool for academics and students of forced migration...[the Handbook] opens up the field to a wide range of stakeholders.' He adds: 

I commend the Oxford Refugee Studies Centre for providing this comprehensive overview, which covers nearly every aspect of contemporary refugee and forced displacement studies…In particular, I hope that the Handbook will be a valuable tool for practitioners in the field and assist them in working together to protect a fundamental human value – that of providing refuge to people fleeing violence and persecution.

The Handbook is divided into seven parts: 

  • Part I: Approaches: Old and New 
  • Part II: Shifting Spaces and Scenarios of Development 
  • Part III: Legal and Institutional Responses to Forced Migration 
  • Part IV: Root Causes of Displacement 
  • Part V: Lived Experiences and Representations of Forced Migration 
  • Part VI: Rethinking Durable Solutions 
  • Part VII: Regional Studies: Current Realities and Future Challenges 

Driving trends and inspiring new research

The field of refugee and forced migration studies has undergone broad shifts over the past three decades, and a number of important trends are set to continue. Chief among these is the opportunity – and need – for collaboration across disciplines in order to better understand the complex causes of displacement. 

It is the aim of the editors to help drive these trends forward, while still retaining the core focus that makes refugee and forced migration studies so important: that of working to improve the lives of the displaced. With the Handbook, the editors hope to ‘…inspire new researchers to join our field, and to help build a sense of common purpose linking, but not limiting, the diverse interests of existing researchers in this complex and fascinating field.’

How to order

Order online from Oxford University Press >>

Download the Introduction (preview) >> (PDF 973KB)

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