The research will draw on a variety of disciplines including history, anthropology, socio-legal studies, political science, ethnomusicology and heritage studies, tracing the everyday experiences and understandings of protection across different regions. Ethnographic observations will be conducted with practitioner partners, namely the Norwegian Refugee Council and the organisations Nile Hope and CARD, to interrogate how these humanitarians respond to different ideas of protection and negotiate authority in their daily practice, including authority over gender hierarchies.
Researchers will also carry out ethnographic work among other actors who seek to provide safety and dignity, paying attention to their material realities. For example, have shelters been built to preserve people’s dignity? Part of this ethnographic work will include legal ethnographies and observations of chiefs’ courts in providing protection.
Early career South Sudanese researchers will participate in the project’s capacity building. Their experience is pivotal to the methodological approach by drawing on lived experiences of protection, their nuanced cultural and linguistic knowledge, and their potential for new epistemic and empirical insights.
The project will also employ the use of visual and musical anthropological methods to work beyond the narrative approaches of interviews, investigating the aesthetic and symbolic ways in which people understand protection. By building a database of oral and object-based interpretations the research will form the basis for an exhibition on how people seek protection. To compliment this approach, an ethnomusicologist will assist researchers to understand ideas about protection expressed through music and song.
Oral history and archival methods will also be used to explore the evolution of protection since the 1990s and the anxieties in humanitarian protection practice during this period. As well as collecting oral histories from protection actors in South Sudan, researchers will humanitarian archives, including the Norwegian Refugee Council archive, Save The Children archive in Birmingham, and the Sudan Open archive developed by the Rift Valley Institute.