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This paper reflects on the value of comparative anthropological research with refugee youth. It examines a participatory research programme in eight field sites in the Middle East and North Africa. While recognizing the importance of the specific socio-political and cultural context of the different field sites, it has been possible to uncover similarities among refugee youth that would have been missed were it not for the exercise in comparison. What emerges from these findings, within research contexts which were viewed, by some, as unique and thus not comparable, are thematic similarities. Characteristic of many young people living in situations of prolonged forced migration are issues of multiple and conflicting identities and ambivalence to transgressed places; activism; and engagement in activities independent of existing humanitarian aid structures. Thus it can be seen that comparative studies can draw out the features and qualities which transcend borders, local cultures and the humanitarian aid regime to display the traits in common among refugee youth.

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Journal article


Oxford University Press

Publication Date



20 (2)


265 - 280