Borders, boxes and disciplinary boundaries: the delineation of forced migration in research and practice

This seminar is based on research findings and observations from three main research and practice perspectives. The first is the reported experiences of refugees and forced migrants from the former Yugoslavia who have arrived in the UK at different times. Secondly, the discussion draws upon research projects and experiences as a First Responder carried out under the auspices of The Salvation Army, which holds a government contract to provide support services to adult victims of trafficking in England and Wales. And thirdly, observations are made based upon a number of different research projects exploring the experiences of those migrants with no recourse to public funds in the UK.

The discussion, focussing on a number of themes common across these different research and practice encounters and interactions with refugees and forced migrants, begins with some general reflections on the consequences of employing levels of categorisation in research, policy and practice in the field of forced migration. The seminar then moves on to a consideration of a number of themes common across different ‘types’ of forced migration: namely family, age and gender and how these demographic variables translate into the delivery of support services compared with how they may be treated in a more academic sphere. Building on these demographic distinctions, the discussion proceeds with an exploration of how certain emotional motifs are blueprinted across narratives of forced migration, particularly the emotions of guilt, anger and a feeling of injustice. These motifs are laced into the narratives of those engaged in the field of forced migration in a number of ways, be they of individual migrants, practitioners or researchers. And related to the practice of research in the field of (forced) migration, some reflections are finally offered on the methods of conducting research in this field, with a particular focus on the use of fiction, archives (including personal archives) and the need to include a historical lens.