The Refugee As Teacher: What Universities Cannot Teach Us

It has often been said that we live in chaotic and unpredictable times, and all over the world governments have begun to address the question of social resilience and how societies, as well as individuals, can cope with the challenges that we face today. In the social sciences and the humanities, great strides have been made in terms of furthering the boundaries of knowledge and knowledge-production, where new forms of knowledge (once deemed irrelevant or even unworthy) have now come to be regarded as valid and important. Oral history, material history, and gendered history are now part and parcel of the mainstream discipline of history, and similar developments are taking place in other disciplinary fields as well. As we seek to expand our frontiers of knowledge, there remain groups that have been relatively neglected. One community in particular - refugees - have been studied to some extent, but the manner in which they have been framed - sometimes as an economic burden, sometimes as a potential threat to security - has robbed them of both their voice and identity. Yet refugees are a glaring reminder of the failure of the world over so many political systems, and they also embody the spirit of resilience and determination that some societies lack. In this presentation I will be calling for the recognition of refugees as human actors and agents, imbued with identity, purpose and history, and who also bring with them vital lessons that can be learned. Rather than seeing refugees and the global 'refugee crisis' as a 'crisis', I am calling for a more nuanced, inclusive and empathetic approach to the study of refugees today, who in many ways are knowledge-bearers and knowledge-producers in their own right.

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Posted by IAFOR