Seeking ‘common information’ among refugees, program workers, and academic researchers

Matt Voigts, Audrey Watne


This paper discusses three factors that contribute to a lack of ‘common information’ among refugees, academic researchers, and humanitarian program workers. The first is power differentials between refugees and many individuals who work with them. Refugees produce information agentively (especially through personal communications), but are also subjugated as targets of research, beneficiaries of humanitarian projects, and contingent recipients of legal protection. The second factor is transitoriness. Refugees often experience prolonged uncertainties about where and how they will live. Researchers and program workers, however, often spend short times ‘in the field’. They often negotiate their jobs’ learning curves in relative independence, with limited opportunities to share key basic aspects of their work with others or collaborate to explore more complex ones. The third factor is a lack of common ground around what information is valuable to share, rooted in the abovementioned factors and differences among academic disciplines. To strengthen collaborations, we propose increasing direct involvement by refugees in academic and program development; longer-term engagements and relationship development; and collaborations among all involved in the further development of theoretical frameworks.

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Copyright (c) 2018 Matt Voigts, Audrey Watne

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.


ISSN 2398-0532

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