One of our project’s aims has been to disrupt mainstream humanitarian narratives which have traditionally represented, and therefore constituted, refugees as individual suffering victims, passive recipients of aid and/or as unique ‘ideal’ refugees who are truly worthy of international sympathy, assistance, and protection. By disrupting these and other established narratives and representational strategies, we ultimately aimed to document, trace and examine alternative ways of seeing, knowing, feeling, listening to, writing, reading, drawing, conceptualising, and otherwise responding to displacement.
Through our research, we have advanced a ‘Spaces and Places, not Faces’ approach, which PI Prof. Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh outlines in more detail here. This recognises an over-reliance on visual and specifically face-oriented modes of representing displacement both within academia and humanitarian communications. This approach therefore invites us to consider the different means of representing displacement, focusing in particular on structural, spatialised processes, in contrast to a highly individualised, de-contextualising focus on individual faces.
This theme has enabled a broad set of voices and perspectives to engage with the project as authors, scholars, writers and artists. Through our collaborative blog series, Representations of Displacement, we explored the many ways of engaging with questions of refugee and local community representation.
Representations of displacement have significant consequences on how refugees and local communities are engaged with and responded to by diverse state and humanitarian actors, as well as how their needs and aspirations are understood, articulated and supported (or not supported). A focus on representation also invites us to more fully consider the implications of how, why and with what effect knowledge is produced about communities affected by displacement.