Reflecting on Refugia: a new transnational polity in the making

Event Information

Share this event

Date and Time

Location

Location

Room 203

RD Watt Building

Science Road

Camperdown, NSW 2006

Australia

View Map

Event description

Description

Public talk with Dr Nicholas Van Hear, University of Oxford

Over the last three years, the global north has stumbled between welcoming and closing itself to new waves of migration. With more than 65 million people currently uprooted within or outside their countries, and with many of them in limbo for years at a time, policymakers are searching for solutions to the problem of mass displacement. The UN steered the international community toward agreeing global compacts on migration and refugees at the end of 2018, but while the aims are worthy many wonder if much will come of them based on the record of similar international agreements so far. Nor is there much confidence that the current refugee architecture is up to the task: the three conventional solutions to displacement—repatriation of refugees, their local integration, or their resettlement—seem unable address the challenge on the scale needed. Only a small proportion of the displaced find their situation resolved through such pathways: most languish in camps or are self-settled in cities in precarious and constrained circumstances for years and even decades at a time without legitimate means of making a living or leading a decent life.

Against this background, a number of radical proposals have emerged to attempt to resolve refugee and migration challenges, including new nations, city states and free zones. These suggestions have been dismissed as fantasies by many commentators; but perhaps such seemingly outlandish proposals should not be rejected out of hand. We have reviewed a number of them and proposed an alternative: a confederal, transnational polity emerging from the connections built up by refugees, with the help of sympathizers, that we have called Refugia. Unlike many of the proposals we have reviewed, we do not envisage this as an island or other bounded territory, but a linked set of territories and spaces connecting refugees into a polity that is neither a new nation state nor simply an international organization, but has some characteristics of both. It would be governed by refugees and migrants themselves, and would link refugee and migrant communities globally. The key feature of Refugia is that its different parts are connected, with mobility between them, and the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

We argue that such a transnational polity is already imperfectly prefigured in many of the transnational practices that refugees and migrants deploy and the environments in which they find themselves today. Camps and communities in countries neighbouring conflicts, neighbourhoods in global cities, transnational political practices and money transfers, emergent communities in disparate locations en route: all are fragments that taken separately do not seem to promise much. But cumulatively they could add up to Refugia, imperfectly prefigured. Consolidating them into a common polity might prove to be a way out of the current impasse.

For further material and publications, check https://www.compas.ox.ac.uk/project/the-refugia-project/




Nicholas Van Hear is Deputy Director at COMPAS. With a background in Anthropology (BA Cambridge), African Studies (PhD Birmingham) and Development Studies, he works on forced migration, conflict, development, diaspora, transnationalism and related issues, and has field experience in Africa, the Middle East, South Asia and Europe.

Before joining COMPAS in 2003, he held senior research posts at the Refugee Studies Centre in Oxford (1990-2000), and at the Copenhagen-based Danish Centre for Development Research (now the Danish Institute for International Studies, DIIS) between 2000 and 2003. His books include New Diasporas (UCL Press/Routledge, 1998), The Migration-Development Nexus (International Organisation for Migration, 2003), and Catching Fire: Containing Forced Migration in a Volatile World (Rowman and Littlefield, 2006).

His main theoretical and conceptual contributions have been on force and choice in migration (Van Hear 1998), migration and development (2002, 2011), diaspora formation and engagement in conflict settings, including post war recovery (1998, 2009, 2011, 2012); and migration and class (2006, 2014). These have been informed by empirical work in Africa, South Asia, West Asia, Europe (including the UK) and North America. He is currently developing research on the interplay between geopolitical shifts, mobility, immobility and political unrest.

(https://www.compas.ox.ac.uk/people/nicholas-van-hear/)



Date and Time

Location

Room 203

RD Watt Building

Science Road

Camperdown, NSW 2006

Australia

View Map

Save This Event

Event Saved