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Course | BSRS 2019

Migration Processes and Practices: Theories, methods and ethical conduct

What is the role of migration research for informed policy? This interdisciplinary course will explore methods, dilemmas and unintended consequences in the (mis)use of migration research in the field of policy-making.


Course leader
Synnøve Bendixsen, Associate Professor, Western Norway University of Applied Sciences and University of Bergen

Course lecturers
Ruben Andersson, Associate Professor of Migration and Development, University of Oxford
Ann Singleton, Senior Research Fellow, School of Policy Studies, University of Bristol
Cindy Horst, Research Director and Research Professor in Migration and Refugee Studies at the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO)
Jessica Schultz, Researcher and Senior Adviser, Chr. Michelsen Institute
Hakan Sicakkan, Professor at Department of Comparative Politics, University of Bergen
Sarah Tobin, Senior Researcher, Chr. Michelsen Institute

Refugee and migration researchers frequently pursue a dual imperative of generating rigorous research and simultaneously influencing policy and practices that concern the lives of migrants and refugees.

This interdisciplinary course aims to deepen the understanding of this dual process. It asks: What risks and limitations of this dual imperative do researchers face and in which ways can researchers counteract these? What is the role of research in policy-making and public debates on immigration and refugees? In which ways can abstract and theoretical work on refugee and migration contribute to improve debates, influence public perceptions and develop better policies?

What different forms of co-creation of knowledge are feasible, and how can collaborative processes be initiated, take form and develop? This course introduces PhD candidates to key concepts, cross-cutting research and analysis in the fields of anthropology, sociology, political science, and law. It offers lectures by leading migration scholars, and student presentations.

After attending the course students should have: 

  • an understanding of the role of researchers and research in shaping policy, practices and public debates in the field of migration and refugee studies, and why it poses ethical and practical challenges
  • familiarity with political, anthropological and sociological issues associated with responses to migration and refugees
  • an appreciation of the main academic and policy debates in the field of international migration, refugee protection and international law related to refugees
  • developed their own informed views about the desirability and feasibility of exercising refugee and migration research to address policy-making.

Synnøve Bendixsen is an Associate Professor at the Western Norway University of Applied Science and at the Department of Social Anthropology, University of Bergen. She has conducted research on refugees and irregular migrants in Norway, young Muslims and religiosity in Germany, marginality, urban life and diversity. She has written several journal articles, book chapters and co-edited books on these topics. Bendixsen is also the co-editor in chief for the Nordic Journal of Migration Research and the series co-editor (with Edvard Hviding, UiB) for the Palgrave Macmillan series Approaches to Social Inequality and Difference.

Reading list

Obligatory readings are marked with *

Abubakar, Ibrahim et al. 2018. The UCL–Lancet Commission on Migration and Health: the health of a world on the move, Lancet 2018, 392: 2606–54

*Bakewell, Oliver 2008. Research Beyond the Categories: The Importance of Policy Irrelevant Research into Forced Migration. Journal of Refugee Studies 21 (4), 432 -453.

*Besteman, Catherine 2010. In and Out of the Academy: Policy and the Case for a Strategic Anthropology, Human Organization 69 (4), 407-417.

*Campbell, Madeline and Tobin, Sarah A. 2016. “NGO Governance and Syrian Refugee “Subjects” in Jordan”, Middle East Research and Information Project (MERIP), https://merip.org/2016/04/ngo-governance-and-syrian-refugee-subjects-in-jordan/

*Faist, Thomas 2010. Academic knowledge, policy and the public role of social scientists – The case of migration and development, COMCAD Arbeitspapiere - Working Papers, 71

*Fassin, Didier 2011. Policing borders, producing boundaries: The governmentality of immigration in dark times. Annual Review of Anthropology, 40: 213-226.

Fassin, Didier 2015. The public afterlife of ethnography. American ethnologist, 42 (4), 592-609.

*Guild, E. (2018). The global compact as a milestone in global governance of migration. Global Social Policy 2018, Vol. 18(3): 325–327.

*Guild, E. (2018). The UN Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration: What Place for Human Rights? International Journal of Refugee Law, 30 (4): 661–663

*Horst, Cindy & Marta Bivand Erdal 2018. Co-Creating Knowledge: Creative collaborations between researchers, artists, policymakers and practitioners, PRIO Policy Brief, 10. Oslo: PRIO

*Horst, Cindy and Nur, Anab I. 2016. 'Governing mobility through humanitarianism in South-central Somalia: compromising protection for the sake of return?' Development and Change 47(3): 542-62.

Jacobsen, K. and Landau, L. B. 2003. The Dual Imperative in Refugee Research: Some Methodological and Ethical Considerations in Social Science Research on Forced Migration. Disasters 27(3): 185–206

*Keen, David and Andersson, Ruben 2018. Double games: success, failure and the relocation of risk in fighting terror, drugs and migration. Political Geography, 67, 100-110.

Massey, Douglas S. 2015. A missing element in migration theories. Migration Letters 12 (3): 279-299.

*Podcast on the concept of persecution from the Refugee Law Initiative Lecture Series, Current Thinking in Refugee Law: PLEASE ACCESS THIS ONLINE:https://soundcloud.com/refugeelawinitiative/current-thinking-in-refugee-...

*Zetter, Roger 2007. More Labels, Fewer Refugees: Remaking the Refugee Label in an Era of Globalization. Journal of Refugee Studies, 20 (2): 172–192, https://doi.org/10.1093/jrs/fem011

*Section II of the Refugee Law Reader, International Framework for Refugee Protection. The refugee law reader. Cases, documents, and materials. 2015. Online:https://www.refugeelawreader.org/images/Syllabus-2015-02-27-US-WEB.pdf pp. 47-91 (please browse through introductory sections as well)

Sharpe, Marina. The 1969 African Refugee Convention: Innovations, Misconceptions, and Omissions, https://www.erudit.org/en/journals/mlj/2012-v58-n1-mlj0390/1013387ar/

*Singleton, Ann 2015. ‘Speaking Truth to Power?: Why Civil Society, Beyond Academia, Remains Marginal in EU Migration Policy’. in: Peter Scholten, Han Entzinger, Rinus Penninx, Stijn Verbeek (eds) Integrating Immigrants in Europe: Research Policy Dialogues. Springer, 131-140

*Sullivan, Denis and Tobin, Sarah A. 2014. “Security and Resilience Among Syrian Refugees in Jordan.” Middle East Research and Information Project (MERIP). https://www.merip.org/mero/mero101414

Tobin, Sarah A. and Maisam AlAhmed (2019).” CMI U4 Anti-Corruption Issues Paper: Working Well for Whom?"

Additional literature

Atak, I., D. Nakache, E. Guild, F. Crépeau (2018). “Migrants in vulnerable situations” and the Global Compact for Safe Orderly and Regular Migration. Queen Mary University of London, School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 273/2018.

Barnett, L. (2012). Global Governance and the Evolution of the International Refugee Regime. International Journal of Refugee Law 14:2/3.

Buttle, N. (2003). The Ethics of Human Frailty. Journal of Human Rights 2(2):227-233.

Dinçer, Cemile Gizem and Sevinin, Eda 2018. Migration, activist research, and the politics of location: An interview with Nicholas De Genova (part 1), in focalblog, available: http://www.focaalblog.com/2018/11/12/cemile-gizem-dincer-and-eda-sevinin-interview-with-nicholas-de-genova-part-1/

Elliot, A., Turner, B.S. (2003). Introduction: Towards and Ethics of Human Frailty. Journal of Human Rights. 2(2): 129-136.

Sicakkan, H.G. (2004). The Modern State, the Citizen and the Perilous Refugee. Journal of Human Rights 3(4): 445-463.

Sicakkan, H.G. (2012). The Rights of Refugees. In Cushman, T. (ed.) Handbook of Human Rights. London: Routledge.

Sorgoni, B. (2019). What Do We Talk About When We Talk About Credibility?  Refugee Appeals in Italy. In N. Gill & A. Good (eds.) Asylum Determination in Europe. Ethnographic Perspectives. Palgrave Macmillan.

BSRS courses 2019