Refugees-What's wrong with history?

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This article outlines the current contours of refugee history and charts a way forward. It begins by asking what future historians will write about forced migration in and around the Mediterranean during 2015–16, and how such a history could entail ‘thinking through oceans’, not just the nation state. Noting the absence of refugees from mainstream historiography, the article traces a history of population displacement in the modern world that is attentive to connections between the circumstances, actions and trajectories of refugees through time and space. This work takes account of histories of categorization (’making up people’) and changes over time to the refugee regime and to humanitarian aid. This broad matrix of relations and practices can be conceptualized as ‘refugeedom’. Given the focus of this special issue, protection is discussed in relation to institutional arrangements, but also to the meanings and forms of refugees’ self-protection in refugee camps. Finally, the article draws attention to refugees’ own engagement with history.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Refugee Studies
Early online date11 Apr 2016
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Refugees Refugee history


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