SOAS University of London

Department of Development Studies

Critical Insights in Forced Migration

Module Code:

The course offers a critical introduction to forced migration in social, historical, political and legal perspective. Forced migrants are displaced by conflict, violence, political upheaval, processes of development, and environmental change, and may be displaced within or across the borders of their state of citizenship. While the majority remain in their region of origin, many are in protracted displacement situations. Drawing on interdisciplinary approaches from the social sciences, this course critically examines experiences of forced displacement, providing an understanding of its causes, meanings and consequences for a wide range of actors and situating it in the wider political economy.

The course questions what ‘produces’ refugees and other categories of forced migrant, and explores the implications of intersectional subjectivities including age, class, gender and socio-political status for them. It addresses the humanitarian and protection responses of governments, NGOs and UN agencies, asking to what extent these are compatible with the survival strategies of affected populations, and how they interact with wider developmental initiatives in areas affected by displacement. Finally, the course examines the rhetoric and realities of ‘durable solutions’ for refugees, and considers the relationship between regional responses to refugee problems, the securitization of migration and attempts to seek asylum in Europe.

For on campus students wanting to select this module, please note you will not be able to select this and 15PDSH015  as this is a restricted combination.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On successful completion of this module, students will be able to:

  • Understand the key analytical approaches employed in the study of forced migration, including familiarity with the legal frameworks relevant to the displaced.

  • Identify the diverse causes of forced migration, and the implications of these for labelling and categorization processes.

  • Demonstrate a critical understanding of the roles of principal humanitarian and political actors, including UN agencies (especially UNHCR), NGOs and Governments.

  • Demonstrate insight into debates surrounding the interface between humanitarian aid and development aid in refugee and returnee affected areas.

  • Recognize the significance of intersectional analyses, and their consequences in relation to the social and political dynamics enacted by forced migrants, and of their agency.

  • Demonstrate knowledge of the search for solutions for displaced people, including in protracted situations, as well as of challenges to these.


Teaching takes place online

Scope and syllabus

The module will cover topics such as:

  1. Legal, institutional and definitional questions
  2. History and the changing political economy of responses to forced migration
  3. Causes and dynamics of contemporary forced migration: the state, conflict and development
  4. Forced migration and the environment
  5. Gender and forced migration
  6. Migration and crisis-sedentarism /exclusion
  7. Mixed migration dynamics/mixed motive migration
  8. Providing protection
  9. Aid interventions
  10. Forced migration and time- protracted displacement
  11. Emplacement and the making of home (s)
  12. Debates about durable solutions: solutions in the region
  13. Debates about durable solutions: 3rd country resettlement and transnational links
  14. “I went as far as my money would take me”: class and generation
  15. Borders and securitisation: the EU
  16. “Surplus populations?”: Resistance and autonomy in forced migration studies

This list is indicative of the type of content that is proposed for the module and may be subject to change.

Method of assessment

100% coursework


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules