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date: 18 August 2017

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter traces the development of the multidisciplinary field of Refugee and Forced Migration Studies, introducing key debates, trends, and challenges which characterize this dynamic area of research, policy, and practice. It starts by outlining the long history of research about refugees and forced migrants across the Humanities and Social and Political Sciences. It then examines the relationship between conducting research about refugees and research for refugees, and the extent to which research should aim to inform policy and practice. Whilst recognizing the particularities of refugees’ protection needs, it subsequently considers how (or indeed whether) the contours of this field can be defined in light of the continuum of ‘forced’ to ‘voluntary’ forms of movement, mobility, and immobility. In turn, it highlights the subject’s focus on understanding and addressing human experiences of displacement and dispossession, and the importance of acknowledging the heterogeneity and agency of forced migrants. After outlining the contents of the Handbook’s seven main parts, the chapter then synthesizes key insights regarding the future of this field and the diverse challenges which scholars and practitioners will face over the coming decades. Overall, the chapter argues that refugee and forced migration researchers and practitioners must simultaneously maintain their commitment to uphold the human rights of displaced persons, carefully manage their connections with policy, and continue to critique the nature and implications of humanitarianism and the humanitarian regime.

Keywords: agency, forced migration, humanitarianism, displacement, dispossession, heterogeneity, human rights, immobility, protection, voluntary migration

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