Palestinians register: doing research with refugees

Most research on refugees is conducted by people who are not refugees. This is not necessarily a problem and much of this work is of great value due to its rigour and ethical approach. But another way to do research on refugees is to do the research along with refugees, identifying refugee researchers or training refugees in research skills and methods. While several unique benefits arise from this approach, it also faces many obstacles and presents significant challenges to researchers trying to co-ordinate such a project.

An example of this approach is the Palestinians Register, a participatory civic needs assessment undertaken in 2004 and 2005 to provide a voice to Palestinian refugees and exiles, the results of which have been recently published on FMO. The consultation and research was conducted by refugees themselves and the report authors claim that they have uncovered not only the aspirations of participants but also the means to achieve them. The report is huge and wide-ranging and appears (I confess to not having read it all) to contain a richness of data and analysis that is perhaps enabled by this research approach. It will be interesting to see the impact that is has.

In a review of Doing Research with Refugees, Cindy Horst provides a brief discussion into the noted challenges and opportunities of this approach to refugee research, suggesting that further discussion and evaluation is required on these methodological challenges. The reaction to the Palestinian Register may throw up some answers and probably some more questions on this subject.

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