Refugee Worlds, Refugee Lives: In & Out of Africa



With over 65 million internally displaced peoples and refugees worldwide, we are currently facing the highest levels of human displacement in our history. International media often focuses on dominant narratives that reinforce a western perspective on a “peripheral” crisis. Yet, the majority of the world’s refugees remain within the “Global South” and over a quarter of the total refugee population resides in sub-Saharan Africa alone. Scholarship focusing on strategies implemented by African governments and their partners has increased, but this growing body of research does not effectively dispel the prevalent misconception that refugees remain passive recipients of aid when they are in in fact active agents of change and innovation. Our collaborative seminar and workshop series seeks to rethink the contemporary refugee crisis in Africa and beyond by approaching it as a social and historical formation with the potential to solve the very problems it represents. Building bridges between infrastructure, sustainability, political representation and narrative, we will explore the generative potentials of refugees as camps develop into communities.


“Refugee Worlds” will draw upon case studies in Uganda, Ethiopia and Kenya, African countries that have accepted refugees from three “waves” of regional violence since the late 1950s. Extending “out of Africa,” we will follow the global pathways of migration through refugee resettlement programs in the Middle East, Europe and North America. In each of these settings, motivated by necessity, refugees implement different and innovative ways of thinking, acting and creating. To understand their worlds and develop tools to help them flourish, it is equally imperative that scholars and practitioners from diverse disciplines address their solutions as points of departure. With this guiding principle, our seminar series will engage experts from STEM fields, professional schools, social sciences, humanities, and institutions outside the university, such as the National Geographic Society and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).


In addition to hosting the High Commissioner, Dr. Filippo Grandi, for a signature lecture and roundtable discussion, we will facilitate a seminar series consisting of three quarterly panel discussions (Fall: Infrastructure and Sustainability; Winter: Political Representation; Spring: Narrative). Panel discussions will be followed by professionalization workshops that will focus on training students around themes such as “Launching a Career in International Human Rights and Refugee Justice,” “Constructing Refugee Narratives,” and “Conducting Ethnographic Refugee Research.” Together, we will examine the initiatives refugees undertake to address their needs and the supportive or suppressive nature of the larger anthropological ecosystems within which they operate. This yearlong initiative will be a critical first step to generating discussion and debate and organizing a community of scholars and activists who will collaborate within a larger research project.


 Lecture, Workshop, and Keynote Series

Upcoming Events:

Sustainable Development and the Empowerment of East African Refugee Women and Girls

In their presentations, Pamela DeLargy, Jok Madut Jok, and Louis Picard will focus on different aspects of the challenges associated with the efforts to empower South Sudan women and girls in the context of the sustainable development objectives in one East African host country, Uganda, and the East African region.

Friday, February 28, 2020
1:00 PM - 4:00 PM
11360 Charles E. Young Research Library
YRL Conference Center
Los Angeles, CA 90095

Unaccompanied Moroccan Migrant Minors in Spain

A discussion with Susan Plann, Research Professor Emerita in the Departments of Chicana/o Studies and Spanish and Portuguese, and Abdellah Laroussi, Fundación La Merced Migraciones (Madrid).

Wednesday, April 22, 2020
3:00 PM - 5:00 PM
Lydeen Library, Rolfe Hall West 4302
Los Angeles, CA 90095

Past Events:

Preventing Mass Atrocities: Using Technology to Empower Communities

From South Sudan, to Iraq, to Myanmar, how can we effectively utilize early warning systems and cooperation with at-risk communities to prevent human rights violations, displacement, and genocide? Join us for a discussion and round table with the Sentinel Project's Executive Director, Christopher Tuckwood, and John Otunga, Program Manager for East Africa, to learn how to stop mass atrocities before they start.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019
2:00 PM - 3:00 PM
UCLA School of Law
Room 1347
Los Angeles, CA 90095

Film Screening of Anbessa

As the city of Addis Ababa expands into the countryside, displacing those living there, a boy channels the strength of a lion (anbessa) as he fights encroaching development and displacement threatening his family.

Monday, November 18, 2019
12:15 PM - 2:15 PM
Luskin School of Public Affairs
Room 5391

Published: Tuesday, October 29, 2019