While calls to re-think, de-centre and de-colonise migration studies has started to trend, what does this mean in practical terms? This blog reflects on our experiences of developing social research training and working with Sudanese, Somalia, Syrian and Iraqi refugees in Jordan. We wanted to understand how communities living in contexts of displacement try to keep children and young people safe from harm. Our research has been developed, designed, conducted by refugees within their own communities, but we also encountered some of the pitfalls of our attempt to build a genuinely decentralised and non-hierarchical research praxis.
Decolonisation within migration studies is in large part about scholars reckoning with the reality that we are part of the migration governance systems so many of us critique, and finding ways to take responsibility for the ways that unequal professional, ethnic, racial and gendered positions are reproduced through our research. Following such an approach in migration research means fundamentally unravelling the hierarchies that structure research agendas – and directly addressing where and why existing research approaches may deepen existing unequal structures of power.
For us in our research to understand how refugee communities keep children safe in contexts of protracted displacement has meant addressing a key flaw in humanitarian child protection work that is still primarily based around a western construct of childhood. This means that little attention is paid to either how childhood is experienced in displaced communities or the parameters that refugee parents and caregivers are able to set around their children’s wellbeing.