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Archiving statelessness: camp memory in contexts of protracted displacement

Project Description

Refugee and migrant camps are assumed to be temporary and transient places, but in reality, their complex pasts bear directly on the lives of current and former residents. ‘Archiving Statelessness’ aims to contribute to our understanding of how the past lives of camps effects the those who live in them today.

There are few memorials to the victims of forced migration. One place where refugee history is being informally archived, however, is in contemporary refugee and migrant camps. Invented to administer and discipline the mass movement of peoples within a nation-state system, paradoxically perhaps, today the camp is one of the few places in the world where transnational historical narratives of displacement converge. Yet, in the absence of national archives, and deprived of resources, little of this collective and by definition transnational memory of displacement is recorded and preserved, and still less is understood about how the processes of memorialisation might play a role in developing a different kind of future for both those in camps, and for communities in search of new imaginative terms for cultural and social integration. Whilst the UN, UNESCO and other agencies have all acknowledged the importance of cultural rights and heritage in building resilience and policy development for mobile populations, to date research in this field is thin.

Directed at the global challenge of developing a deeper historical and cultural understanding of migration, this interdisciplinary PhD project brings a humanities and social sciences methodology to the challenge of understanding the impact and historical and cultural meanings of the protracted nature of contemporary displacement.

Supervised by Professor Lyndsey Stonebridge (Interdisciplinary Chair in Humanities and Human Rights, Department of English Literature and IRiS) and Dr Nando Sigona (Reader in International Migration and Forced Displacement, IRiS), the project builds on recent interdisciplinary work on literary and creative histories of transnational displacement, trauma, and memory (Stonebridge), refugee hosting (Stonebridge and Signoa), and changing meanings of citizenship and campzenship (Sigona). In terms of Global Challenges capacity building, it responds to the need to train a new generation of interdisciplinary researchers in Migration and Refugee Studies who are well networked globally, and experienced in collaborative and question-driven arts and humanities approaches to real world social problems.

Research Questions
• What role do memories of displacement play in the contemporary refugee/migrant camp?
• What is the legacy of the camp in the biographies of former residents?
• What theoretical models of memorialisation are available for transnational histories of trauma and displacement? What are limitations of current models? How might contemporary camps learn from the memorialisation of older camps in the modern history of statelessness?
• How do collective and comparative migrant memories play a role in the development of new space-aware/spatialised models for citizenship -- or campzenship?
• How might the collaborative creative work of archiving memory – whether through writing, photography, film, art, narrative history, memoir writing – be used for constructing futures for the camp and migrant communities?
• How does/might digital archiving and technology play a role in archiving refugee and migrant histories in transnational and mobile contexts?

Candidate specification:
• Postgraduate degree in social sciences or humanities relevant to migration and refugee studies and/or a proven track record in this field of research
• Ability to develop and prepare high quality research proposal
• High level analytical capability
• Language fluency relevant to the PhD research project
• Excellent communications skills
• Research experience in migration or refugee studies
• Experience of writing and publishing high quality outputs
• Ability to communicate complex information clearly and creatively, including via social media
• Experience and/or potential for planning, undertaking and project managing research to deliver high quality results
• Proven capacity to engage in interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary research

Funding Notes

This project is part of the Global Challenges Scholarship.
The award comprises:

Full payment of tuition fees at UK Research Councils UK/EU fee level (£4,327 in 2019/20), to be paid by the University;
An annual tax-free doctoral stipend at UK Research Councils UK/EU rates (£15,009 for 2019/20), to be paid in monthly instalments to the Global Challenges scholar by the University;
The tenure of the award can be for up to 3.5 years (42 months).

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