Keynote Speakers

Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, University College London

Prem Kumar Rajaram, Central European University

Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh “Shifting the Gaze: Beyond Inclusion and Social Cohesion toward Refugee-Refugee Relationality”

In this paper I propose the importance of analyzing experiences of and responses to displacement with attention to what I call “refugee-refugee relationality” (Fiddian-Qasmiyeh 2016a). Drawing on the case of refugees from Syria who have sought safety in a Palestinian refugee camp in North Lebanon since 2011—as part of a broader project examining local community responses to displacement from Syria in Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey—I explore the dynamics, and limitations, that underpin processes of “refugees-hosting-refugees” and/or forms of “refugee-refugee humanitarianism” (Fiddian-Qasmiyeh 2016a, 2016b). In so doing, I problematize studies of and responses to displacement that either view refugees “in isolation” or solely “in relation” to “hosts,” where the host is conceptualized as the citizen-qua-host, hosting the non-citizen. Focusing on the nature and implications of refugee-refugee relationality thus entails shifting our gaze away from relationships that have become archetypal in the field of refugee studies and refugee response. This concurrently requires us to disrupt mainstream policy and programmatic concepts, aims, and interventions such as the promotion of “refugee integration” and “social cohesion” within “local host communities.”

Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh is a professor of migration and refugee studies at University College London, where she is also co-director of UCL’s Migration Research Unit and director of the Refuge in a Moving World research network across UCL. Elena’s research focuses on experiences of and responses to conflict-induced displacement, with a particular regional focus on the Middle East. She is currently leading a number of multi-year research projects, including a four-year AHRC-ESRC-funded project, “Local Community Experiences of and Responses to Displacement from Syria” (known as Refugee Hosts) and a five-year project funded by the European Research Council, “South-South Humanitarian Responses to Displacement: Views from Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.” Elena’s recent publications include The Ideal Refugees: Gender, Islam and the Sahrawi Politics of Survival (Syracuse University Press, 2014), South-South Educational Migration, Humanitarianism and Development: Views from the Caribbean, North Africa and the Middle East (Routledge, 2015, paperback published in 2017), The Oxford Handbook of Refugee and Forced Migration Studies (co-editor, Oxford University Press, 2014), the Handbook of South-South Relations (co-editor, Routledge, 2018), and Refuge in a Moving World: Refugee and migrant journeys across disciplines (editor, UCL Press, 2020). Contact:

Prem Kumar Rajaram “Rethinking ‘Inclusion’:  Coloniality, Patriarchy and the Administrator’s Gaze in ‘Refugee Inclusion’ Projects”

“Inclusion” is often measured through key (and often quantifiable) targets (e.g., people get into or do not get into education, work, hospitals when sick, etc). This method defines what is meant by inclusion—defining a problem that thus merits one particular solution and not another. This policy-oriented way of defining and then responding to inclusion as a problem harks to what Dorothy E Smith calls the sociologist cum administrator’s gaze. It is a way of problematizing the diverse and often difficult set of experiences that people named refugees encounter in order to facilitate intervention.  This way of approaching the matter also makes “inclusion” out to be a definable and graspable problem, making it a project that can be achieved through the right types of intervention. The complexity of social and political experiences of marginalized groups—refugees and others—and how these are related to broader social and political orders and ideologies become less important as a subject of study. Inclusion can also mean the strategic marginalization through culturalization of people called “refugees.” Institutions and actors that mediate processes of becoming a part of society are transformative spaces; people called refugees often need to undertake cultural and other transformation (who is it who is ultimately being included?). The affective and other experiences of people called or named refugees in struggles to belong need to be considered. How do their processes of targeted inclusion, inclusion through marginalization, or outright exclusion say something about the broader social, political, and cultural order? This presentation will consider “refugee inclusion” as a project undertaken by state and non-state actors. Particular note will be taken of how the inclusion project in Europe reflects the social, political, and economic order and ideologies. The European project of including others in a tangential way resonates with the colonial project) and feminist theorizations of inclusion (the sociological cum administrator’s gaze differentiates between those who conceptualize and govern and those whose complex social experiences are reduced to the aims of government).

Bio: Prem Kumar Rajaram is a professor of sociology and social anthropology at Central European University, Budapest, and is head of CEU’s Open Learning Initiative (OLIve), a university preparatory program for refugees and asylum seekers. His research focuses on the intersections of migration, capitalism, and colonial power. Contact: