IR395      Half Unit
The Politics of Displacement and Refuge

This information is for the 2022/23 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Stephanie Schwartz


This course is available on the BSc in International Relations, BSc in International Relations and Chinese, BSc in International Relations and History and BSc in Politics and International Relations. This course is not available as an outside option. This course is available with permission to General Course students.

Priority will be given to students on the BSc in International Relations progamme.

Course content

The number of forcibly displaced people has nearly doubled in the last decade.  Amid this rise in forced migration, how are states, international organizations, and local communities responding? What is causing this increase in displacement and what are the political consequences - both in the Global North and the Global South? What are the everyday realities of being forcibly displaced? This course takes on these questions as we examine the politics of displacement and the evolution of the global asylum and refugee protection regime.

The course begins with an overview of the historical and legal origins of the asylum and refugee protection regime, including who qualifies as a refugee and asylum-seeker under international law and why. We then explore the disconnect between this foundation and the realities of displacement and mobility today. The course continues with an analysis of the causes and consequences of displacement, followed by an examination of the evolution of state, international and local responses to asylum-seeking. Throughout the course we pay particular attention to the politics of refugee and IDP hosting in the Global South, where the majority of displaced persons live, as well as refugees' and migrants' own perspectives on the experience and politics of displacement.

By the end of the course students will be able to articulate complex issues related to forced migration and global asylum governance; synthesize and critique scholarly work from a variety of disciplines - including political science, sociology, and anthropology; and analyze the causes of displacement and state responses to asylum-seeking.


10 hours of lectures and 16 hours of classes in the MT.

Students on this course will have a reading week in Week 6, in line with departmental policy.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 1 case study and 1 presentation in the MT.

Students will complete a 1-page case study proposal for feedback from the instructor by Week 4, and will also conduct a class presentation on the same topic. Both of these assessments will elicit feedback to aid the student in the preparation of the summative case study submission.

Case Study Proposal Memo: Students will submit a 1-page written case study proposal memo in Week 4 of the course, outlining their proposed case, the rationale for case selection, and a plan for its analysis, that aligns with course themes.

Class Presentations: students will do a seminar presentation on the topic of their case study. Students will present for a maximum of 8-10 minutes. This builds skills in summarising complex arguments, prioritising what is most important, and building oral and written arguments and presentation skills.

The rest of the class are required to engage critically with the presentation, and pose questions and offer feedback. They build skills in active listening to the oral presentation and responding to complex arguments in real-time. Students are provided with oral feedback on their presentations, so that other students can learn from this experience.

Indicative reading

  • Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, Elena et al., eds. Oxford Handbook of Refugee and Forced Migration Studies. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2014.
  • Nguyen, V.T. ed., 2018. The displaced: Refugee writers on refugee lives. Abrams
  • Rawlence, B., 2016. City of thorns: Nine lives in the world's largest refugee camp. Picador.
  • Tinti, P. and Reitano, T., 2018. Migrant, Refugee, Smuggler, Saviour. Oxford University Press.
  • Hannah Arendt. “We Refugees” (1943) (11 pp)
  • Gammeltoft-Hansen, T., 2014. International refugee law and refugee policy: The case of deterrence policies. Journal of Refugee Studies, 27(4), pp.574-595.

Additional Reading

  • Zolberg, Aristide R. 1983 “The formation of new states as a refugee-generating process.” The
  • Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences, 467, (1983): 24-38. (14 pp)
  • Martin, D. A. (1991) “The Refugee Concept: On Definitions, Politics, and the Careful Use
  • of a Scarce Resource”. In Adelman, H. (ed.) Refugee Policy: Canada and the United States.
  • Toronto: York Lanes Press, pp. 30-51. (21 pp)
  • Kelley, Ninette. 2001. “The Convention Refugee Definition and Gender-Based Persecution:
  • A Decade's Progress.” International Journal of Refugee Law 13 (4), pp. 559-568 (9 pp)
  • Zetter, R. (2007) “More Labels, Fewer Refugees: Remaking the Refugee Label in an Era of
  • Globalization”. Journal of Refugee Studies, 20(2). (20 pp)
  • Janmyr, M., & L. Mourad. 2018. “Modes of Ordering: Labelling, Classification and
  • Categorization in Lebanon’s Refugee Response.” Journal of Refugee Studies, vol. 31(4), pp. 544-
  • 565. (21 pp)
  • Gleditsch, Kristian, and Idean Salehyan. "Refugees and the spread of civil war." International
  • Organization 60.2 (2006): 335-366. (31 pp)
  • Tinti, Peter and Tuesday Reitano. 2016. Migrant, Refugee, Smuggler, Savior. New York: Oxford
  • University Press. Part I.
  • Arar, R. (2017). “The New Grand Compromise: How Syrian Refugees Changed the Stakes in
  • the Global Refugee Assistance Regime,” Middle East Law and Governance, 9(3), 298-312.
  • (14 pages)
  • McAdam, J. (2014) “Conceptualizing Climate Change-Related Movement.” In Climate Change,
  • Forced Migration and International Law, Oxford: Oxford University Press, Chapter 1
  • De Chatel, F. (2014). “The role of drought and climate change in the Syrian uprising:
  • Untangling the triggers of the revolution.” Middle Eastern Studies, 50(4), 521-535. (14 pp)
  • Khoury, R. B. “Finding Home in War: The history—and limitations—of the international
  • refugee regime.” Lapham’s Quarterly “Roundtable.” 25 January 2017
  • Finnemore, M. and Sikkink, K., 1998. International norm dynamics and political
  • change. International Organization, 52(4), pp.887-917
  • Lamis Abdelaaty (2020), “Rivalry, ethnicity, and asylum admissions worldwide,”
  • International Interactions, DOI: 10.1080/03050629.2020.1814768
  • Gammeltoft-Hansen, T., 2014. International refugee law and refugee policy: The case of
  • deterrence policies. Journal of Refugee Studies, 27(4), pp.574-595.
  • Hansen, R. (2014) “State Controls: Borders, Refugees and Citizenship.” In Oxford Handbook RFMS
  • Costello, C., C. Nalule, & D. Ozkul. 2020. “Recognising refugees: understanding the real
  • routes to recognition,” Forced Migration Review 65, November
  • Hamlin, R., 2012. “International law and administrative insulation: a comparison of refugee
  • status determination regimes in the United States, Canada, and Australia.” Law & Social
  • Inquiry, 37(4), pp.933-968. (35 pp)
  • Zhou, Y.Y. and Shaver, A., 2021. Reexamining the effect of refugees on civil conflict: a
  • global subnational analysis. American Political Science Review, 115(4), pp.1175-1196.
  • Barnett, M. and Finnemore, M., 2012. Rules for the World. Cornell University Press. Chapter 4
  • “Defining Refugees and Repatriation at the United Nations High Commissioner for
  • Refugees
  • Bradley, Megan. "Rethinking refugeehood: statelessness, repatriation, and refugee agency."
  • Review of International Studies 40, no. 1 (2014): 101-123 (22 pp)
  • Stephanie Schwartz 2019. “Home, Again: Refugee Return and Post-Conflict Violence in
  • Burundi,” International Security 44:2, 110-145


Case study (100%) in the LT.

Key facts

Department: International Relations

Total students 2021/22: Unavailable

Average class size 2021/22: Unavailable

Capped 2021/22: No

Value: Half Unit

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Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Communication
  • Specialist skills