Living in Limbo: The African Refugees Documentation Project

Professor Andrew Apter discusses a new UCLA initiative promoting collaborative research projects and documentary films on refugee conditions and communities in Africa.

Monday, December 08, 2008
12:00 PM - 1:30 PM
Room 10383, Bunche Hall
UCLA campus
Los Angeles, CA 90095

Working with filmmakers, human rights organizations, the United Nations and local NGOs, undergraduates and graduate students will conduct ethnographic research on everyday life in refugee camps, illuminating the evolving sociocultural mechanisms that organize and regulate these “invisible communities.”  Projects will focus on life-cycles, life-stories, conflict-resolution, education, religion, healing, food management and informal markets within the larger contexts of persecution and exile that define the conditions of refugee culture.
The basic premise of our project is that ethnographic data on African refugees will improve our understanding of the challenges they face as well as the broader geopolitical problems that they represent.  Refugee camps are generally invisible.  Like prisons and detention centers, they remain off-limits to national and international communities.  By bringing these hidden worlds into public view, we relate the dangers and struggles of life on the margins to the implicit dynamics of refugee communities as adaptive, functioning social systems with self-sustaining potentialities.  Must refugees remain passive victims on an international stage of crisis intervention, or can they construct viable communities with internal mechanisms of collective agency and empowerment?  Can narratives and memories of refugees shed light on past atrocities and point toward truth and reconciliation? The African Refugees Documentation Project explores these possibilities by documenting refugee life on the ground, and disseminating new data for analysis and interpretation.
About MASS:
This presentation is part of the UCLA African Studies Center Monday Africa Seminar Series (MASS).  Monday Africa is a bi-weekly series that will feature innovative research by UCLA faculty, as well as outside visitors, and build an Africanist community at UCLA.  Speakers will present on recent books, unpublished papers, or ongoing research.

Special Instructions

For campus map, directions, transportation options to UCLA, visit

Cost : Free and open to the public; pay-by-space and all-day ($9) parking available in lot 3.

For more information please contact:

UCLA James S. ColemanAfrican Studies Center

Sponsor(s): African Studies Center