Monday, May 14, 2012

The 14th Conference of the International Association for Studies in Forced Migration (IASFM)

The 14th Conference of the International Association for Studies in Forced Migration (IASFM) will be hosted by the Mahanirban Calcutta Research Group, Kolkata, India, January 6-9, 2013. This is the first time that the conference is being hosted in South Asia.
The deadline for Submission of Abstracts is June 15, 2012.
Contested Spaces and Cartographic Challenges

The institutional methods by which governments and the international agencies governed population flows were known as humanitarian methods, and these were unilaterally decided by those who govern, in short, they were non-dialogic. Today the two broad issues that need to be reflected upon are - on the one hand mixed and massive flows, provoking desperate governmental methods, on the other hand innovations at a furious pace in humanitarian methods, functions, development of institutions, and principles. The governments have discovered why people move: identifying not only violence, threat of violence, torture, and discrimination, but that they move also due to natural disasters, man-made famines and floods, climate change, resource crises, environmental catastrophes, and the like. The humanitarian response has grown accordingly in range. Governments realize the need to gear up not only to emergencies but "complex emergencies" - a scenario that alludes to a complicated assemblage of factors and elements leading to the emergency situation. At the same time it is clearer than ever that the responsibility to protect the victims of forced migration must be wrenched away from its "humanitarian roots", and located anew in the context of rights, justice, and the popular politics of claim making today.

Migrants are refusing to be completely obedient to governmental methods and techniques, and that the subjectivity of the migrant remained unruly, defying categorization, mixing up all kinds of flows and compositions, and remaining possibly the biggest question mark in the plan of reorganizing the global politico-economic strategic space. The rights of the migrants, in particular the victims of forced migration, becomes noticeable in this light. The responsibility on part of the governments to protect the victims and devising strategies of protection of those migrant's rights then becomes a necessary corollary. The way in which the government wanted to stabilise the population flow as the humanitarian method, simplistically as a non-dialogic mechanism becomes important to analyse.

Refugee flows are consequent to political and social reasons, redrawing of boundaries, partition of states, xenophobic policies, minority persecution, civil wars, and foreign aggression. Without a proper understanding of these causes, durable solutions, the "right to return," burden sharing in refugee protection, and the interface of human rights origins and humanitarian dimensions of refugee protection cannot be thought of.

Internally displaced persons (IDPs) have gained prominence as a category of rights bearing subjects. Thus, even though forced by circumstances, government policies or government inaction/impunity, IDPs were not accorded the same kind of protection that refugees were. However it is not uncommon for internally displaced persons to call themselves refugees even while they are within the physical borders of the state. Thus, the unique features of this ‘new reality' needs to be highlighted by focusing on the relevant experiences of strategies of protection of victims of forced migration, particularly in the post-colonial world.

Countries are encouraged to ratify the UN Convention on the Status of Refugees and the Protocol both by the UN and by refugee rights organizations. While holding a state responsible to a promise made at the international level is a better option for protection than arbitrary state action, historically international conventions have not known to be of any more assistance than the domestic legislations already in place.

Against this backdrop the way post colonial societies have grappled with migration in comprehending the existing and accepted regime of protection of refugees, stateless, migrants and internally displaced needs to be reassessed. Does this understanding add to the discourse on forced migration? Should we not only ask yet again whether the existing regime of protection of refugees has failed, but also debate the ways in which the regime can be made more relevant for refugees, the primary objective with which it was created and for which it functions? Are there examples that allude to this fact - of redundancy of the international protection regime or possibilities of protection without an international framework? These are few questions that the IASFM 14 intends to find suitable answers to.

It is pertinent to consider the fact while dealing with the massive and mixed flows that, the borders, are not merely cartographic exercises of state formation but also of management of population and this is evident in the refugees people take to the high seas to navigate through porous borders to enter safer destinations. While "borders" remain crucial to the distinction between "refugees", IDPs, stateless persons and people facing deaths due to hunger, disease and pestilence, sometimes it is also interesting to examine how internally displaced groups refer to themselves as "refugees" in their own countries? The contexts in which refugees, internally displaced person and stateless move are different, distinct and at times overlap. The exercise of boundary making works at multiple levels and the main aim of the conference would to be look into the ways through which people contest those spaces. Victims of environmental displacement, labor trafficking, as well as other such long unobserved dislocations can no longer be ignored. It follows then that the protection mechanisms previously envisioned are also no longer applicable in an increasingly globalized world. It also becomes important to look into the economics of forced migration in terms of the dynamics of livelihood vis-à-vis crises, where some gain and some lose.

In this context, IASFM14 seeks to particularly explore the themes below -


The conference will be divided into three broad themes and each of the broad themes will have three subthemes.

1. Borders and Displacement

2. Geography and the Economies of Displacement

3. Rights, Ethics and Institutions

Sub themes under three broad themes:

1. Borders and Displacement

a) Negotiating borders- Against the backdrop of pronounced population flows in the post-colonial regions of the world today, what are the consequences of mixed and massive flows in terms of their nature? What are the ways in which both internal and external borders are negotiated in the socio-political context for the internally displaced/the stateless persons? The theme intends to explore the eco-political processes that underlie such negotiation, also looking into the consequences of the imposition of ‘a border on both sides' and understanding the erstwhile policies for the protection of the victims of forced migration.

b) Gendered experience of borders- The double marginalization that takes place for vulnerable groups such as women, children and the third gender at the first instance, for their already disadvantaged class position further intensifies owing to the process of displacement they undergo. Understanding gendered experiences and the nature of exploitation, not merely a saga of victimhood but as strategies of coping and mobilization.

c) Lives in Transit- Displacement as an ever continuing circular process does not exhaust itself of its first instance of settling; exploring displacements as a continuous process of settling and unsettling. Owing to the newer state of occupancy and movement from camps to ghettos in cities entail incidents of extreme dehumanization and rights forging. The discussion on camps and enclaves becomes pertinent with these circles of insecurity as a perpetual space of transit.

2. Geography and Economies of Displacement

a) Modes & Patterns of Displacement- The modes and patterns of displacement are multifarious and imply movements due to a number of factors such as conflict, development, environmental disasters and climate change.

b) Margin of Space of Development, Places for contest- Understanding the space and place as a site for multi-corner contestation, the way in which ‘scrambling for resources' takes place in exaggerating the resource politics played therein. The agents who are contesting range from the state, capitalist firms to the ones who are displaced. It is by understanding the nature of resource dynamics played out by such actors that their eco-political motives come to the fore. Also the way in which the displaced strategize ways of negotiating with this environment by forming syndicates and cooperatives becomes interesting. This subtheme explores camp and non-camp experiences, life in transit in contested spaces together with rights in a protracted context.

c) Geographies and Costs of Displacement- Who pays the price of displacement? What are the costs and impacts of displacement vis-à-vis development/ conflict/ resource crises? The segment intends to discuss ways in which labour politics is played out in terms of labour migrations and trafficking.

3. Rights, Ethics, and Institutions

a) Protection, Ethics and Justice - Exploring the strategies of protection: what are the protection strategies that are adopted today? What are the best practices in this regard? The segment aims to analyse the national, regional and international protection strategies against the backdrop of ethics and justice.

b) Governmentality, Laws & Institutions - Conversing on the existing legal regimes; national and regional and international frameworks for refugee rights protection.

c) Social Movements and Rights of the Displaced- Does greater civil society participation ensure protection of the victims of displacement? The segment would explore the way in which social movements impact the notion of protection of the displaced and their rights.

Specific Objectives

While inquiring these issues IASFM 14 will take advantage of the location of the conference - South Asia. It will aim to bring out the uniqueness of the experiences of forced migration and migrants in the region. South Asia, we have to recall in this context, has witnessed massive population exodus, transfer of population groups, partitions, creation of statelessness, various kinds of forced migration, conditions of protracted displacement, massive cyclone and Tsunami disasters, but at the same time unprecedented measures of relief, rehabilitation, refugee protection, and informal help to victims of various forms of displacement. And yet all these have happened without a strong legal framework either to refuse or to offer protection. The South Asian experiences, in short, are worth of close observation so that appropriate lessons are drawn.

Structure of the Conference

The Conference will create a space for both academic rigour as well as the challenges on policy-oriented and practical work in the field. As such, while presentations of academic research will continue to provide the intellectual backbone of the conference, these will go hand in hand with round-tables engaging policy makers and governmental stakeholders, as well as presentations and discussions around practical approaches to dealing with forced migration from a range of practitioners. Furthermore, the conference will draw on non-academic analyses, interpretations and representations of forced migration(e.g., portrayals of displacement using movies, pictures, art & crafts, music and dance, fictional literature) in order to diversify the entry points into discussion of the major themes identified.

Alongside traditional panel presentations, the conference will also consist of plenaries, round-table discussions, public dialogues, film shows and cultural events. While the core of IASFM membership is academic, and academic contributions will be at the heart of the conference, there will also be a strong presence of policy-makers and activists, as the conference seeks to influence the relevant policy discussions and civil society interventions.

All participants, whether academic, policy-makers, donors, activists or forced migrants themselves, will present from their particular perspectives, but with an emphasis on stimulating live debate and pushing the boundaries of debate and discussion in the field of forced migration, particularly in the South Asian region. Most importantly, the conference will include direct participation from refugees and forced migrants themselves. It is essential that refugees and asylum seekers-across a wide range of sex, class, national, and educational backgrounds-can participate directly in these debates which concern their very livelihoods and well-being. In this regard, the Conference methodologies will be adjusted to accommodate the presence of affected persons and therefore the Conference shall also consider ethical issues and psychological needs of people as it progresses.

Submission of Abstracts

We invite submissions of abstracts of 250 words from academics, graduate students, practitioners, policy makers, individuals working with forced migrants and forced migrants themselves.

Submissions may be either individual or of a panel comprising of 4-5 individuals and from all disciplines broadly conforming to the outline and themes enunciated above. Practice-based presentations and other non-traditional means of exploring forced migration and its study, that include film screenings, poster or photo installations/exhibitions are most welcome.

The submission deadline for abstracts is June 15, 2012. Submissions will be reviewed by the Programme Committee.

Conference participants are responsible for their own expenses for attendance at the conference. Some financial assistance may be available to assist those who might be otherwise unable to attend the conference. Priority will be given to graduate students and individuals from the Global South. Financial assistance will generally only be available to individuals presenting at the conference. Details of this assistance will be posted on the IASFM website in the second half of 2012. Further details about the conference and the online submission form can be found on the IASFM website: Requests for further information can be made to the following email address: Information about the IASFM can be found at To withdraw from the list, please send a message to: IASFM-unsubscribe-request@YORKU.CAFor other inquiries about the IASFM List, please write to

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