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POSTPONED: Mellon Sawyer Seminar - Humanitarianisms: Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh - Shifting the Gaze: Southern-led Humanitarian Responses to Displacement
POSTPONED: Mellon Sawyer Seminar - Humanitarianisms: Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh - Shifting the Gaze: Southern-led Humanitarian Responses to Displacement
WhenThursday, Apr. 30, 2020, 3:30 – 5 p.m.
Campus locationCommunications Building (CMU)
Campus room120
Event typesLectures/Seminars


With displacement primarily being a ‘Southern’ and ‘South-South’ phenomenon and dynamic, it is equally the case that diverse Southern actors have historically responded to displacement, including in ways that resist, reject and provide alternatives to the hegemonic aid regime. However, in spite of the existence of historical and contemporary examples from across the global South, Southern-led responses to displacement have typically been rendered invisible, and largely un-acknowledged by Northern- and Northern-based academics, policy-makers and practitioners, with sustained academic engagement only arising relatively recently. In turn, when Southern actors’ responses to displacement have been analyzed—including through studies into the activities of Islamic faith-based organizations and of ‘non-traditional’ donor states which are not members of the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee (DAC), such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE and Kuwait—Northern academics and policy observers have often delegitimized such responses. With this in mind, and with a particular focus on responses to displacement from Syria since 2011, in this lecture I develop a multiscalar analysis of the roles played by Southern states, local host communities, faith-based networks and refugees themselves, including through what I refer to as ‘refugee-refugee humanitarianism’. In all, I argue that it is essential to critically examine Southern-led responses to displacement, including through a focus on refugee-refugee relations, as a means of challenging a paradigm that is both dominant and exclusionary in the field of refugee studies and refugee response.

Prof. Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh is Professor of Migration and Refugee Studies and Co-Director of the Migration Research Unit at University College London (UCL), where she is also the Director of the Refuge in a Moving World interdisciplinary research network. She is currently the Principal Investigator of a number of research projects, including Analysing South-South Humanitarian Responses to Displacement from Syria: Views from Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey (funded by the European Research Council), and a Local Community Experiences of and Responses to Displacement from Syria (funded by the UK’s Arts and Humanities Research Council). Elena has conducted extensive research in refugee camps and urban ‘host’ areas including in Algeria, Cuba, Egypt, France, Jordan, Lebanon, South Africa, Syria, Sweden, and the UK. Drawing on a critical theoretical perspective, her work contributes to key debates surrounding refugees’ and local host community members’ responses to conflict-induced displacement in the Global South; the nature of refugee-host-donor relations, and refugee-refugee relationality; and Southern-led humanitarian responses to forced migration. Her recent publications include The Ideal Refugees: Gender, Islam and the Sahrawi Politics of Survival (Syracuse University Press, 2014),  South-South Educational Migration, Humanitarianism and Development: Views from the Caribbean, North Africa and the Middle East (Routledge, 2015), The Oxford Handbook of Refugee and Forced Migration Studies (co-editor, Oxford University Press, 2014), and Refuge in a Moving World: Tracing Refugee and Migrant Journeys Across Disciplines (UCL Press, 2020). Elena is the co-editor of the Migration and Society journal; its 2020 volume examines the theme of ‘Recentering the South in Studies of Migration,’ which is also the title of Elena’s introduction to this Special Issue.

Part of the Mellon Sawyer Seminar Humanitarianisms: Migrations and Care through the Global South.

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