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Conference: Power, Representation, and Identity: Narratives by, about, and around refugees and forcibly displaced persons, 20-21 April 2012, York University, Toronto‏

2012 Centre for Refugee Studies Graduate Student Conference
Power, Representation, and Identity: Narratives by, about, and around refugees and forcibly displaced persons

April 20-21, 2012

The Centre for Refugee Studies (CRS) Student Caucus is pleased to announce that the Annual Student Conference will take place on April 20th and 21st, 2012 at York University, Toronto, Canada. This event offers graduate and upper year undergraduate students from across disciplines, as well as practitioners, with a keen interest in migration and refugee issues the opportunity to present and discuss their research ideas with fellow students, academics, professionals, frontline practitioners, researchers, scholars and all those interested in forced migration issues.

The definition of refugeehood laid out in the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees is inextricably linked with narrative. Legally, a refugee is a person whose life comprises a particular story or plotline that includes flight as a result of feared persecution on the basis of certain grounds: race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion. Thus, refugeehood, in its strictest definition, is tied up with individual identity and life story. However, the contexts in which narratives surrounding refugees are constructed vary widely in their purposes and power relations. For example, refugees often must compile a narrative that emphasizes their own victimhood in order to meet the conditions required by assistance agencies or status determination systems. In other situations, refugees may decide to portray the ways in which they have enacted agency and resilience. Currently, many state governments construct a narrative around refugees in their public statements and legislations that labels asylum seekers as “bogus” or “queue jumpers”, or at worst potential terrorists. Media sources, in turn, reinforce this negative perception of refugees in the public imagination. On the other hand, in speaking to potential resettlement states, donors, and the public, UNHCR and non-governmental assistance organizations often employ a discourse that underlines the need to protect certain “vulnerable” groups, such as women, children, and the elderly. Furthermore, academic research about displaced persons encounters dilemmas of narrative, including whether the ‘voice’ of the refugee is being truly heard beyond the researcher’s own agenda as well as issues of ownership and usage of the findings.

Therefore, the goal of this conference is to explore the multiple contexts, motivations, and power relations inherent in this vast array of narratives by and about displaced persons. We hope to exchange research and ideas in order to better understand the complex and multi-faceted experiences of displaced persons and to reposition these narratives from the margins of vulnerability into our broader understandings of human life. This overarching theme seeks to embrace a comprehensive and interdisciplinary discussion of (forced) human migration. We welcome you to submit proposals on a wide range of topics, including but not limited to:

· Life stories about refugees

· The use of narratives in the Refugee Status Determination process· Intersectionality of oppression and refugee narratives/claims (gender, race/racialization, class, sexual orientations, etc.)

· Discourse analysis of different sources of refugee portrayal, i.e. government legislation, international agency funding appeals, media stories

· Artistic and literary representations of the forced migration experience

· Methodological and ethical issues when doing research with refugees and displaced persons

· Settlement challenges and services in the host society

· ‘Refugees’ vs. other experiences of forced and/or ‘irregular’ migration

A selection of strong papers submitted to the conference will be considered for publication in the peer-reviewed journal, REFUGE. If you are interested in having your submission considered for publication, please adhere to the REFUGE author guidelines, requiring papers no more than 7,500 words, double-spaced and formatted according to the newest version of the Chicago Style Manual. More details about author guidelines and the journal can be found at

Submissions that fall under the category of visual, audio, and performing arts
are also welcome. All acceptable art submissions will be exhibited at the
conference location. Group/panel submissions are also invited.


Individuals or groups wishing to participate in the conference MUST submit a
250-word abstract by February 28th, 2012.

Abstract submissions MUST be accompanied by the following:

1. Name(s) of presenter(s)

2. Key presenter e-mail address

3. Title of abstract

4. A short personal profile (no more than 150 words)

5. Indication of whether the presentation will be made by a panel or an

6. Indication of the type of audio-visual aids needed (i.e., projector,
laptop, DVD player etc.)

Abstracts should be submitted electronically to by February 28th, 2012.

Presenters who wish to be considered for publication in REFUGE must their completed papers to by April 20th, 2012.

For more information about presenting at the conference please contact

For more information about registering for the conference and event details,
please refer to our website, which will be available in late January 2012.