inequality | borders & security | human rights & humanitarianism | (im)mobility
GRS works to foster and communicate a deeper understanding of what happens when the world is moved and people move within it. Whether conflict, natural disaster, climate change, or poverty are the critical moving factors, GRS’s multi-disciplinary research capacity offers outstanding analyses of the relationship between large-scale political or critical processes and the lived experiences of people on the ground. We explore the underlying dynamics of forced migration, the ways that refugees and marginalized maneuver, and the intersection between these groups and authorities’ attempt to curb, tap into, or manage these movements. Through our multi-disciplinary research capacity we offer diverse stakeholders as policy-makers, NGO’s, humanitarian agencies, municipal level actors, housing-related agents, fellow academics and students, and the broader public a stronger and better informed knowledge base to engage the challenges and resources that arise from these encounters.
The vision is animated by the analysis that conflict, movement, forced displacement as well as the inability to move are intimately interconnected in an increasingly globalized world in which the majority live precarious and uncertain lives. As this field is one of the central political battlefields of our time, GRS contributes to a thoroughly informed debate, not only on the contested issues of refugees and migration, but also on the complex and conflictual relationships in which authorities – state or non-state – and the paths of people intersect and intertwine.
In past and present projects, GRS researchers have contributed and continue to do so to the sound debate by analyzing those conflicts and social structures, which both locally and in their global forms give rise to conditions of simultaneous forced displacement, inabilities to move, precariousness and violence. Focus has also been on mobility be it voluntary, semi-forced or forced between North and South, East and West as well as within the developing world and countries in transition in the form of labour migration, rural-urban migration, resettlement, diasporic movements and flight. Analyses also focus on how states’ border and migration control systems may also themselves produce displacements through externalized control practices, including the interception, detention, deportation and forced transportation of persons. Deepening our understanding of continuities and ruptures of such phenomena, GRS researchers also examine postcolonial dimensions of displacement. Finally, we have focused on how people on the move have been received, navigated themselves in their new environment and between ‘old’ and ‘new’ spaces. Geographically, GRS researchers work in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Latin America and Asia as well as with global politics and structures. Methodologically, GRS is an inter-disciplinary unit staffed with scholars with backgrounds in history, international development, anthropology, philosophy, human rights and law, political theory and international relations. While coming from different backgrounds, there is a concerted attempt to briung the different competencies together in concrete research projects.
Hence, while there is a distinct focus in much of the work on refugees, refugees must be understood within broader historical structures of conflict and political economy, and as a socially constructed category from within a national order of things, which has had different meanings through time. Refugees have not always been on the run and their status will change over time; people living in ghettos and urban areas, for example, have often been displaced by conflict or social precariousness. GRS researchers aim to understand these relationships in their complexities, rather than focusing uniquely on the moment of forced displacement and the entry of the displaced into specific legal and political categories. Hence GRS is not a refugee studies center, a migration studies center or a conflict studies center, but we attempt to study these phenomena together.
In terms of education, GRS has been successful in producing a coherent and attractive MA study programme that reflects the overall understanding of the relationship between conflict, forced displacement, the inability and the possibilities to move. Located at Aalborg University, project work and problem-based learning is central combined with course work in law, International Relations, culture and global studies. As part of the study programme, students are encouraged to engage in internships to connect theoretical analysis with practical and problem-based engagement. The mixture of academic and practical elements has proven attractive to a global student body and in 2015 GRS could only accept 20% of those who applied. However, there is still room for improvement to realize the full potential. As part of institutional developments at Aalborg University including a strategic commitment to develop the relationship between teaching, research and knowledge collaboration with external stakeholders (AAU strategy, 2016-2020) and a financial commitment to develop the Copenhagen Campus in general and GRS in specific, the potential might be realized.
In order to accomplish the GRS vision, align with the overall AAU strategy and to build on the strengths of the past, GRS aims to achieve a number of outcomes – or end states – over the next five year period internally and in relation to important stakeholders.
In order to achieve these strategic goals (end-states or outcomes), a number of activities and initiatives – as pre-conditions – will be developed and implemented over the next period. The initiatives will be evaluated against the strategic goals on an annual basis to assess their usefulness in achieving the goals as well as which new initiatives are necessary for the period between 2018 and 2020.
In 2016, a number of initiatives will be further developed and institutionalized in order to establish GRS as a coherent research and teaching unit at AAU internal to GRS and in relation to CGS Copenhagen to ensure collaboration and to realize strategic, thematic and analytical potentials, as well as producing an environment conducive to publication and research dessimenation. These initiatives comprise:
In line with AAU strategies, international research networks and participation in large research application are central for the GRS strategies:
While this document must guide our work, it should also be a living and dynamic document. Hence, it will need to be discussed and reflected upon. In mid-2016, the GRS group will revisit the document to assess its usefulness. At the end of every year of the strategic period, concrete activities will be re-assessed and discussed to allow for necessary revisions.
This document has been updated in February 2017.