Forced Migration Studies: ‘Who Are We and Where are We Going?’ Report on IASFM 12, Nicosia, Cyprus, June 28-July 2 2009
The theme of the conference—boundaries—reflected the venue for the conference. The call for papers and many of the presentations reflected the overall theme exploring boundaries across three areas: policy, identity and community. In many ways, though, what emerged from the conference was a reflexive turn and an introspection about what Forced Migration Studies is: it generated an analytical reflection on IASFM’s own identity, community and policies as the principal focal point for the meeting of academics, policy-makers and practitioners working on forced migration. Previous conferences had questioned and debated whether our field of study should be defined as Refugee Studies or Forced Migration Studies; at IASFM 12, the consensus had generally emerged in favour of the latter but this left open the question of what the contours of Forced Migration Studies could and should be. At a time when the dynamics of forced migration and migration in general are in transition—with declining asylum space in the North, diminishing humanitarian space in the South, and with the emergence of new meta-challenges such as the global economic crisis, the implications of climate change, and the transition in power towards China and India—the opportunity to reflect on the scope, focus, and boundaries of our own work, as an association, was particularly welcome. In offering an overview of the conference, this report therefore explores three questions: who are we, what did we learn from the conference, and where are we going?