Call for Proposals

CARFMS22: Crisis and Forced Migration: Manifestations of power in a changing world

November 2, 2022 - November 4, 2022

Kitchener Waterloo, Ontario

14th Annual Conference of the Canadian Association for Refugee and Forced Migration Studies (CARFMS)
Hosted virtually in collaboration with
The Human Rights Program at St Paul’s University College at the University of Waterloo
2-4 November 2022

Whether used in reference to conflict, war and displacement, climate change, Covid-19, impending food shortages, or the state of democracy, the concept of crisis has become ubiquitous in modern discourse.  Invoking ‘catastrophe’ or ‘disaster,’ the term ‘crisis’ inflames political passions and evokes an emotional response, frequently rooted in fear. Yet a ‘crisis’ is not inherently negative. Having its roots in the Greek ‘krísis’ and ‘kríno,’ meaning ‘to decide’ or ‘to judge,’ referring to the action or ability to separate or distinguish, a ‘crisis’ can also be considered a turning point/a point of inflection, an event or a state of affairs that provokes or requires a decisive response. It implies the impossibility of maintaining the status quo. It may precipitate feelings of powerlessness, or provoke responses grounded in the baser instincts of humanity – fear, prejudice, selfishness, but it can also act as a call to action, change, renewal, and solidarity. Conflict or crisis is sometimes necessary to bring about social change.

In the forced migration context, the term ‘crisis’ has been affixed both to specific displacements (i.e., the European migration ‘crisis’) and to root causes (i.e., authoritarian government). In either case, crises demand response. Does the international community come together in solidarity to redefine and reapportion global responsibility, or does it fragment with each state or region building ever higher walls to deter entrance? Do we hold on to a definition of “refugee” that offers protection to some but excludes many, or re-imagine the international protection regime to better ensure the equal dignity and respect that were its original promise?

The mobilization of the concept of ‘crisis’ influences our ability to respond and the responses available. As an extraordinary occurrence, a ‘crisis’ can be used to justify or authorize an emergency response in which the status quo may be suspended with dramatic consequences for people on the move. Indeed, both ‘crises’ themselves and the responses that they elicit represent manifestations of power or the lack thereof. In the migration context, the politics of power are evident in the responses to forced displacement: in the ability of the Global North to implement policies and practices that trap displaced persons in the Global South and in the inability of less economically developed countries to hold wealthy countries accountable for their role in the root causes of displacement. The state leader who can close a border or criminalize assistance to irregular migrants exercises power. The politician who uses the vulnerability of others to stoke nationalist sentiments exercises power. The immigration officer responsible for defining and categorizing those seeking protection exercises power. However, so too does the migrant who, once displaced, rebuilds their life, the advocate who stands up for the rights of others, the academic whose research influences policy, and the refugee who makes their voice heard.

The 2022 CARFMS Conference will bring together researchers, policymakers, NGOs, practitioners, students, displaced persons, and advocates from diverse disciplinary and regional backgrounds to discuss how to claim, exercise, and resist power in responses to the multiple, overlapping global forced migration crises that currently face the world. The conference will feature keynote and plenary speeches from leaders in the field and refugees, and we welcome proposals for individual papers, organized panels and roundtables structured around the following broad subthemes:

1)            Power, Ideology, and Disruption: Challenging discourse and praxis

In a time when opportunistic populist regimes often misrepresent and scapegoat refugees and other forcibly displaced persons, what role does discourse and ideology play in shaping perceptions of those in need? How can refugees and advocates resist and disrupt existing power structures evident in language, image, policy, and law that dehumanize, discriminate, and criminalize? This theme explores the use of these vehicles to shape the discourse and praxis around refugees and explores ways of strengthening recognition of equal dignity and rights for those who are forcibly displaced.

2)            Representation, Discrimination, and Legitimacy: Claiming space to be a refugee

One manifestation of power comes in the form of control over definition and recognition. This subtheme interrogates the politics of inclusion and exclusion and examines the liminality inherent in the experience of displacement. Which migrants and refugees get to be “seen”? Whose voices are heard? In watching the crisis unfold on the Polish-Ukrainian border in March 2022, advocates were distressed but not surprised to see the disparate treatment afforded to certain groups of refugees.  How are race, religion, country of origin, method of flight, etc. used to create and perpetuate hierarchies of worthiness, despite an international legal framework based on the inherent equality and dignity of all humans? Contributors are encouraged to reflect on questions of identity and definition and how the current system can ensure a protected ‘space’ in which refugees can exercise voice and claim rights.  

3)            Crisis, Complicity and Responsibility: Critical approaches to understanding “root causes”

Although well known, the root causes of forced migration (conflict, war, environmental disasters, development, climate change, etc.) receive far less attention than they deserve in the study of forced migration.  In the largely reactive approaches taken by researchers and policymakers, they tend to be accepted as largely inevitable, unavoidable, unchangeable. However, forced displacement is not inevitable: it is the intentional or incidental product of deliberate actions taken by powerful actors. This subtheme encourages contributors to pursue a broad understanding of root causes and prevention of forced migration. How do broader historical and political realities, including power disparities and colonial legacies, create the conditions for forced displacement and the crises that precipitate it? What actions can be taken to prevent forced migration in the first place and what responsibility do states and others have to act?  

4)            Resistance, Agency, and Solidarity: Reflecting on responses to forced displacement

The reality that the vast majority of forcibly displaced people remain in a state of legal, social, political, and economic precarity indefinitely has spurred examination of responses beyond the three traditional durable solutions of resettlement, repatriation, and integration. Increasingly, there is an emphasis on refugee resilience and self-reliance.  Some question whether this trend represents a genuine acknowledgement of the agency of migrants, as opposed to an offloading of responsibility from the state onto private actors and refugees themselves. However, recognizing the capabilities of migrants and their potential as contributors to development allows states and other actors to imagine new responses to forced migration and to solicit engagement from a wider range of stakeholders.

This subtheme explores various responses to forced migration put forward by refugees and migrants themselves, host communities, aid providers, national authorities, and the international community. These responses vary from grassroots solidarity initiatives to high-level international cooperation. At all levels there is need to explore how to develop sustainable programming that ensures the rights – and dignity – of migrants, fosters civil society engagement, and reimagines what it means to be in solidarity with refugees. 

5)            Best Practices in Forced Migration Research

As the field of forced migration studies matures, innovative methodologies are developed, and best practices emerge. Increasingly there is a push to ensure not only that displaced persons’ voices are heard but that they are included as active participants in all stages of the research process and the production of knowledge. This subtheme encourages researchers to consider, among other things, how to ensure that their work engages with and is meaningful to key stakeholders, including people who are displaced. We also encourage submissions that explore strategies to bridge the gap between academic research, policymaking, and practice, that examine the opportunities and challenges of interdisciplinary research, and that address ethical concerns in the field.


We welcome submissions for individual paper presentations, organized panels, and roundtables. Film and multi-media presentations suitable to an online format are also welcome. When submitting your proposal, please indicate which theme your submission aligns with.

Submission deadline: July 15th, 2022