Panel 1: Disrupting Humanitarian Narratives


24th October 11:15 – 12:45

Chair: Sarah Clarke (Article 19)

Prof. Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh (Refugee Hosts – UCL)

Dima Al-Hamadmad (Refugee Hosts)

Dr Tom Western (University of Oslo)


Throughout the Refugee Hosts project, we have aimed to disrupt humanitarian narratives that 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 contrast, we have sought to explore how we can document, trace and examine alternative ways of seeing, knowing, feeling, listening to, writing, reading, drawing, conceptualizing, and otherwise responding to displacement. What might this mean for how displacement – and the people, places and spaces affected by and responding to it – are represented?

Panelists have been invited to prepare a 10-15 minute presentation reflecting on the topic of representation in relation to everyday life in displacement; ‘local’ and ‘community’ narratives of displacement; the importance of the past/history in understanding current situations of displacement; and creative approaches to representing and otherwise responding to displacement.

As well as exploring the themes relating to this specific panel, panellists have been invited to also explore one of the key questions posed by the wider Refugee Hosts research project, namely: “how can we understand local community responses to displacement?”

Biographies and links to presentation abstracts can be found below, in addition to a recommending reading list on Disrupting Humanitarian Narratives.


Sarah Clarke (Article 19)

Sarah Clarke joined ARTICLE 19 in January 2019 as Head of the Europe and Central Asia team, defending the human rights to freedom of expression and information in the region. From 2012-2018, she led PEN International’s free expression policy and advocacy work, overseeing its engagement with the UN, regional mechanisms and national governments. She has authored dozens of country-specific and thematic reports concerning legal restrictions on free expression and the protection of journalists and writers at risk. She has particular expertise on Turkey, where she has led numerous advocacy missions, trial observations and the amicus interventions on the priority cases of journalists before the European Court of Human Rights. She frequently consults for the UN High Commissioners for Human Rights and Refugees on freedom of expression and forced migration. She is a graduate of Oxford University and Trinity College Dublin and an Expert at Columbia University’s Global Free Expression.


Prof. Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh (Refugee Hosts – UCL)

Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh is the Principal Investigator leading the Refugee Hosts project; she 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 Coordinator of the UCL-wide Refuge in a Moving World interdisciplinary research network (@RefugeMvingWrld).

Elena’s research focuses on the intersections between gender, generation and religion in experiences of and responses to conflict-induced displacement, with a particular regional focus on the Middle East. She has conducted extensive research in refugee camps and urban areas including in Algeria, Cuba, Egypt, France, 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’ experiences of conflict-induced displacement, the nature of refugee-host-donor relations, and both North-South and South-South 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, 2016), Intersections of Religion and Migration: Issues at the Global Crossroads (co-editor, Palgrave, 2016), and The Handbook of South-South Relations (co-editor, Routledge, 2018).


Dima Al-Hamadmad (Refugee Hosts)

Dima Al-Hamadmad is a Syrian researcher based in Jordan. Soon after her graduation in 2015, she started working on several research projects with universities in US, UK, and Lebanon such as Yale, University of Florida, and Queen Mary University. She worked on research focused on the Syrian context, refugees’ mental health and trauma, the impact of trauma on Syrian generations, and evaluation of psycho-social and educational programs. She participated in Refugee Hosts research workshops in Jordan and Lebanon. Beside her research work, she is currently working in monitoring and evaluation in an international NGO, Centre for Victims of Torture.


Dr. Tom Western (University of Oslo)

Tom Western is a Marie Curie Fellow in the Faculty of Humanities at the University of Oslo. He is an ethnographer and sound recordist, working primarily in Athens, Greece, where his research connects music, sound, borders, displacements and citizenships. His first book – National Phonography – is forthcoming with Bloomsbury in 2020. Tom has published in the journals Sound Studies and Ethnomusicology Forum, and has work forthcoming in Migration and Society and in several edited books. In Athens, he is a core team member of a refugee-led collective, running workshops on the city and citizenship, sound recording, storytelling and media production.  You can read an abstract of Tom’s presentation, here.


You can read Refugee Host’s series on Representations of Displacement here or see our recommended reading list:

Davies, D. (2019) Speculative Borders: China Miéville’s The City & the City

Davies, D. (2017) Urban Warfare, Resilience and Resistance: Leila Abdelrazak’s Baddawi

Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, E. (2018) Shadows and Echoes In/Of Displacement

Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, E. (2017) Disrupting Humanitarian Narratives? Introduction to the Representations of Displacement Series

Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, E. (2016) Palestinian and Syrian Refugees in Lebanon: Sharing Space, Electricity and the Sky

Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, E. and Qasmiyeh Y. M. (2017) Refugee-Refugee Solidarity in Death and Dying

Greatrick, A. and Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, E. (2017) The Roles of Performance and Creative Writing in Refugee-Related Research

Harsch, L. (2019) ‘Random Acts of Kindness’: Reflections on Everyday Responses to Displacement in Hamra

Maqusi, S. (2017) Photo Gallery: Baqa’a Camp

Stonebridge, L. (2016) Poetry as a Host

Stonebridge, L. and Qasmiyeh, Y.M. (2017) Time Machine: Stereoscopic Views from Palestine, 1990.

Timberlake, F. (2019) Home-making and Home-taking: Living spaces for women refugees in Grande-Synthe

Qasmiyeh, Y. M. (2016) Writing the Camp