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Über Flucht forschen. Herausforderungen der Flüchtlingsforschung

J. Olaf Kleist

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Researching Refugees: Challenges of Refugee Research.


Refugee research is hardly institutionalised as a field of research in Germany but is widely established internationally. Despite various debates about methodology in and implications of refugee research, a comprehensive discussion about its foundational challenges is still missing. This paper first outlines refugee research as a research field and briefly illustrates its history and its object of research. It is argued that refugee research is an element of migration studies historically and thematically, yet constitutes its own field of research due to its specific focus on refugees’ rights and protection. This is followed by a discussion of central challenges that research projects in this field find themselves confronted with. Firstly, the definition of “refugee” is contested and, therefore, the object of research depends on disciplines, thematic  approaches, and context, making efforts to define terminology a fixture of refugee research. This makes interdisciplinary cooperation, which requires clarity about different approaches and common research frameworks, particularly difficult in a research field where such cooperation is so crucial. Transparency is also important in regards to refugee research’s relevance for practice, which is aimed at reducing suffering on the one hand and requires independence from terms and goals of practice on the other. Considering the specific vulnerability of refugees, research has to employ particularly high ethical standards of methodology and be extremely sensitive to the political implications of its research outcomes. Due to these challenges, refugee research must implement continuous reflections about its foundations in order to do justice to its subject.

Keywords: refugee, Refugee Research, Migration, Interdisciplinary, theory/ practice, ethics. politics


Schlagwörter: Flüchtling, Flüchtlingsforschung, Migration,  Interdisziplinarität, Theorie/Praxis, Ethik, Politik


Bibliographie: Kleist, J. Olaf: Über Flucht forschen. Herausforderungen der Flüchtlingsforschung, PERIPHERIE, 2-2015, S. 150-169.