Accepted paper:

Anthropology, displacement and the competing aspirations of diverse actors

Authors:

Tania Kaiser (SOAS)

Paper short abstract:

To what extent are attempts to support the economic survival of displaced people informed by 'thick' understandings of local political economies, the values and priorities of involved social actors, and the competing and often contradictory requirements of perverse political and policy environments?

Paper long abstract:

An increasingly important arena of humanitarian activity in the developing world and elsewhere are interventions designed to support the livelihoods/economic activity of refugees and other displaced people (Betts 2017, Omata 2019). Such efforts are framed by the complex and dynamic contexts in which displaced lives are lived. Not only are over 50% of displaced populations now urban dwellers, but the majority of displacements are also protracted. To what extent are attempts to support the economic survival of refugees and displaced people conducted by actors and in ways informed by 'thick' understandings of local political economies, the values and priorities of involved social actors, and the competing and often contradictory requirements of perverse political and policy environments? Evidence from classic anthropological work with those affected by displacement suggests that a great deal is to be gained empirically, analytically and practically from deploying anthropological insights and understandings (Hirschon 1989, Loizos 1982). This contribution seeks to reflect on the epistemological possibilities associated with "livelihoods research" and asks whether the policy frameworks of host governments in refugee settings may be regarded as reliant on functional ignorance about the projects and aspirations of refugees as much as on a clear evidence base?

panel A02
Anthropological Contributions to Humanitarian Intervention