Stories to Tell

Refugees have long been the objects of inquiry for fields such as sociology, history, and political science. Refugees are also often featured in the media serving as objects of suffering or agents of terrorism. The “Stories We Tell” about refugees are different from the ones featured in books or newspapers. The Critical Refugee Studies Collective believes that refugee storytelling allows for new forms of knowledge to be produced. This site enables for us to share our stories and our histories — together.

About our Project

Funded by the University of California Office of the President (UCOP), the Critical Refugee Studies Collective is a four-year initiative (2017–2020) that seeks to make the University of California system the premier intellectual space and resource for critical research, teaching, and public initiatives that privilege and address the concerns, perspectives, knowledge production and global imaginings of refugees, asylum seekers, and internally displaced and stateless human beings.

Spectacular, supranational, hyper-focus on refugee suffering, desperation and neediness in media and international relations, and legal and social science scholarship have all represented refugees as passive recipients of western generosity and increasingly as the targets of racial profiling, surveillance and detention today. This has created a multi-billion dollar professionalized field for rescue recreation, and precluded any critical examination of the global geopolitical-historical conditions that create and sustain the refugee “crisis.” In contrast to the problem-oriented approach to refugees, the Collective charts an interdisciplinary field of Critical Refugee Studies (CRS), a humane and ethical site of inquiry that re-conceptualizes refugee lifeworlds not as a problem to be solved by global elites but as a site of social, political and historical critiques that, when carefully traced, make transparent processes of colonization, war, and displacement. Such reconceptualization requires approaches that integrate theoretical rigor and policy concerns with refugees’ rich and complicated lived worlds — approaches that fuse the critical and the creative.

Our Collective Work

To establish this interdisciplinary field, the Collective facilitates, promotes and funds innovative projects, devises K–12 and university curricula, and organizes conferences, gatherings, symposia, transnational networks, webinars, lectures, installations, testimonies, and negotiations that: a) trace the impact of colonialism, imperialism, gradualism, centrism, and militarization on refugee movements: and b) integrate scholarly, policy, artistic, legal, diplomatic and international relations interests with refugees’ everyday experiences.

We aim to link communities, movements, networks, other collectives, artists and academic institutions as critical partners, forging new and humane reciprocal paradigms, dialogues, visuals and technologies that replace and reverse the dehumanization of refugees within imperialist gazes and frames, sensational stories, savior narratives, big data, colorful mapping, and spectator scholarship. United Nations data shows that nearly 66 million human beings in the world have been forced from their respective homes. More than 22 million of those human beings are refugees (half of whom are under the age of 18), and 10 million are stateless. As a Collective (common, shared, joint, combined, mutual, communal, united, allied, cooperative, collaborative), we show how data, maps, charts, definitions, forms, designations, honors, titles, programs, street signs, treaties, conventions, and other forms of discourse can avoid the objectification of refugees as the producers of those discourses attempt to illustrate crises and address refugee needs. 

Vision

We view public engagement, community collaboration, and respect as central to our intellectual endeavor and critical intervention. We aim to be a compassionate, humane and genuine intellectual, cultural and community resource for international, multi-national, national, state, regional and local governmental and non-governmental refugee agencies challenged with navigating social, economic, cultural and linguistic diversity and difference as they interact with human beings impacted by displacement, state conflict, and separation from homelands. In the way we centralize refugees and their subjectivities and collaborate with our communities, our objective is to change traditional paradigms of doing research on refugees and challenge the current discourse on refugees within the academy and beyond it.

We envision a world where all refugees are treated and embraced as fellow human beings with all fundamental rights and privileges.